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Steve Waugh Column

It is nice to have some new blood in the side
Steve Waugh - 25 March 2001

The Chennai Test left the team physically and mentally drained. We had six games in five weeks and the last two back-to-back Tests were five- day affairs involving some tough cricket. At the end of the fifth day I was obviously very disappointed that we could not pull of a win, but I am certainly not unhappy with the side. I am proud of the fact that they kept going till the very end and put 100 per cent into their pursuit of a win. In professional sport you expect the guys to give it their all, and the team definitely did that in Chennai.

At the end of day two, when India were 212 for one, I had said that we would be in with a chance if we could set the hosts a target of 150 on the last day. However, when day five came, I guess another 50-60 runs would have given me the opportunity to attack more and would have also put extra pressure on the Indian batsmen. As it turned out, 155 was almost enough with India losing as many as eight wickets before getting there.

I think most the Indians were thinking about victory rather than about scoring. This is why we kept getting wickets at regular intervals. VVS Laxman was the only exception, and he looked nice and relaxed right through his innings. His 66 was made comfortably, and he was responsible for India's eventual victory.

Harbhajan Singh greets the big wicket of iceman Steve
However, none of this would have been possible but for another superb bowling performance from Harbhajan Singh. His figures through this series were pretty amazing and the fact that he ended up with 32 wickets means that things definitely went his way. His hat trick in Calcutta spurred him on for the rest of the series, and his variety and guile had our batsmen guessing every time we faced him.

A lot has been said about how the Australians were unable to read his straighter ball. However, I think it was his subtle changes in line and pace that made things difficult for us. In Chennai he also made us play out of the rough consistently, and that was to prove decisive. It is hard to say why Shane Warne missed out on this occasion. Things did not go his way and the Indians, especially Laxman, attacked him well whenever he came on to bowl. Maybe on another day he would have been difficult to play. I think it is unfair to pick up the match figures of a certain player and say it is responsible for a side's defeat.

In the end, I think India did deserve to win especially after the way they came back in Calcutta. It was a great achievement, and they repeated in Chennai when they bounced back after we had put up 326 for three. However, we did come very close to winning both matches and these two Tests proved that there is a very fine line between victory and defeat.

We must now focus on the one-dayers and the first one at Bangalore will be crucial. We have not thought about a specific gameplan for Harbhajan as we rarely focus on one player before formulating strategy. In any case, he will be a different proposition in one- dayers as there won't be as many fielders up close and he will only get 10 overs. Further, our batsmen always scored off him when he first came on to bowl. He would then come back and strike by taking many wickets in quick succession.

The players who featured in the Tests will be drained after the Tests which were tense and taxing right till the end. I'm sure the Test players from both sides will be a little flat coming into the one- dayers. Therefore, it is nice to have some new blood in the side as we go into the five-match series.

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Teams Australia, India.
Players/Umpires Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Colin Miller, Damien Martyn.
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