Saturday, October 24, 2009

"It’ll get tough for MSD from now on"

In India as an expert commentator for the inaugural Airtel Champions League Twenty20, White Lightning Allan Donald was equally eager to talk about the upcoming series between India and Australia. He spoke at length on several issues. Excerpts:

On India versus Australia: For me, Australia go in as the favourites because they have had some outstanding 50-over results coming into this series. The Aussies beat England comprehensively after an Ashes defeat and then went on to win the Champions Trophy in an emphatic fashion. India on the other hand will face the heat, especially after what happened in the Champions Trophy. Again the fact that the favourites tag lies with Australia might just suit India, but they haven’t played a lot of competitive 50-over cricket in recent times and that might just work against them. As far as the visitors are concerned, Ponting will make sure that his boys concentrate on their jobs and not on India.

On Indian fast bowlers and Ishant Sharma: I don’t know what his form is of late but am aware that a lot is being talked about him. The Australians for sure will target him. They will definitely try to put him under pressure. It’s a massive series not only for Ishant but for the entire Indian attack. How motivated they are as a lot could well be the telling factor as far as India’s fortunes are concerned. The bowlers set the tone, the culture, in a high-profile series; their bowling tends to lift the momentum and for me, if India is to do well in this series, the bowlers will have to deliver.

On Australia’s transition phase: The cricketing world heaved a sigh of relief after the likes of McGrath, Warne, Hayden, Langer and Gilchrist called it a day. For me, the cricketing world had been waiting for a long time to get back at Australia but the Aussies have coped really well. They have won the Champions Trophy and also beat England with ease. If you have to survive the rigours of international cricket, then you have to win consistently and Tim Nielsen along with Ponting have set the ball rolling but ask them about their ODI success and they will say that it means nothing to them. They desperately want to regain the Ashes and trust me, once the England team sets foot on Aussie soil for the next Ashes, it will be payback time. The Australians have always had the depth and reservoir to produce quality players. Guys like Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson are prime examples.

On Dhoni as captain: I don’t know much about Dhoni but what I have seen of him, he comes across as an extremely calm character and that is one of the key qualities of a leader. Within months of becoming a captain one could sense that Dhoni had the respect of his fellow mates and that is also extremely vital but slowly things are getting difficult for him. From now on, time will tell what he is made out of. I just hope Dhoni isn’t made a scapegoat as and when the ride turns rough.

On next generation Indian batsmen: India have always had an abundance of talent. The cupboard is never empty but the key to their success lies in what they have picked up from the stalwarts of the game like Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman.If they have picked the brains of the seniors, if they have stepped into their thought process then it should not take time for them to attain success but if that hasn’t been the case, then it will take time. Anyhow, I do believe it will take time for the next generation to fill the void.

On bowling short to Indian batsmen: No doubt over the fact that attacks all over the world will come really hard at the Indians. In the past they have had the record of struggling against short-pitched deliveries and attacks all over the world will continue to target that area. I remember during my days we used to relish the prospect of bowling to Indians on bouncy decks. No placid track means no freebies and then it is war out there, but I do believe that Gary Kirsten will address this issue and accordingly prepare his boys.

On the first impression of a fast bowler: Athletic, elasticity and then we enter the mental side of it. One needs to know how to handle pressure. You need to be a leader. Young fast bowlers all over the world do not know how to be a leader. Look at someone like a Brett Lee. In recent times, not only has he taken care of himself, Lee has also tried to set the benchmark for others to follow. That to me is a special quality.

Current crop of quick bowlers: Oh there is a good bunch around (Lee, Siddle, Johnson and Steyn. India have Zaheer and Ishant. You will not get express bowlers in numbers simply because of the volume of cricket that is being played today. No genuine fast bowler today can go on to play 80-100 Test matches simply because there is too much cricket being played around. You can attain longevity only if you cut down on the volume of cricket.

On life as a commentator: I love coaching. I don’t see myself as a commentator. I would love to be associated with South African cricket in some form or the other. It feels great to get in touch with people with whom you have played the game. For me, it was a nice opportunity to once again meet the likes of Ravi Shastri and Ian Bishop. I have never played with Ian Chappell but it was interesting to know what his take on the modern game is. Again at the end of the day, I want to see myself, not in formals but in a tee shirt and shorts!

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