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Touring Aussies put Indian officials in a tizzy

Harsha Bhogle

3 October 1996

The Australian cricket team now touring India put the host country's cricket officials in a bit of a fix by altering their travel plans according to the needs of their sponsors.

Mark Taylor and his 14-man squad were due to arrive in New Delhi Tuesday, then drive to Patiala for their warm up three day match, beginning Saturday, against the Board President's XI. Instead, the team flew straight to Bombay with the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, official carriers of the Australian Cricket Board.

Indian officials, needless to add, are unamused. ``We were surprised to find the Aussies in Bombay,'' said Jayant Lele, joint secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. ``Not only did they cancel the tickets we sent them, but the rooms we booked for them in Delhi were wasted. It's an unusual situation.''

It was also the cue for a scramble in Bombay, as the local office of Australian TV tycoon Rupert Murdoch struggled to book the side into hotel rooms. The Indian board has refused to pay the exorbitant rates, arguing that ``Since the Australians are making their own arrangements, we will pay them only what we would have paid in Delhi.''

Funnily enough, Australian captain Mark Taylor confessed himself surprised to find himself in Bombay. ``I don't know why we are in Bombay,'' Taylor said shortly before his team left, on Friday, for Delhi. ``It's probably got to do with the official airline of our Board.''

Australia is scheduled to play a one off Test in New Delhi starting October 10, before joining South Africa and the hosts in a limited-overs triangular from October 17 to November 6

After three days of practise, sometimes curtailed by rain, Taylor warned his players that they needed to break out of their ``one-day mindset'' if they wanted to win next week's Test for the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

The five-day Test, at New Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla grounds, will be the first Test Australia has played in eight months, and its first in India in 10 years.

``I am not worried about the wickets,'' Taylor said. ``My priority is to get the players out of the one-day mindset and into playing five-day cricket.'' The last time Australia played a Test match was when they took on Sri Lanka at Adelaide in January, the third of a three Test series.

Allrounder Steve Waugh is the only survivor of Australia's last tour of India in 1986, which produced only the second tied Test in history.

Meanwhile, Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar sounded an ominous warning to the Australians by hammering two successive centuries in the Challenger Trophy tournament between India seniors, and the A and B teams, which has been billed as a sort of selection tournament. ``I am happy with my form, because you've got to be at your best to defeat the Australians,'' the 23-yearold, who will be leading India in a Test for the first time, said.

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:04