Tendulkar set to play first T20 in a year

Written by Agencies | Melbourne, January 31: | Updated: Jan 31 2008, 21:34pm hrs
Sachin Tendulkar is all set to play his first Twenty20 match in more than a year when world champions India take on Australia in a one-off game here tomorrow with the visitors keen to maintain their their supremacy in the shortest format of the game.

With the Harbhajan Singh racial issue having been sorted out, the focus will be back on cricket but the Indians can expect a fierce backlash from the Australians who have been quite livid with the developments in the last two days.

But the Indians are quite prepared to counter the home team with a number of younger players joining the team for the tri-series, leaving Tendulkar to be the only veteran player in the squad.

Tendulkar, who had opted out of the last year's Twenty20 World Cup to give chance to youngsters, has been in great from since setting foot on Australian soil and will be keen to carry the momentum into Twenty20 game and the subsequent tri-series.

The other senior players like captain Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have returned home to give way to the youngsters. The presence of the youngsters will no doubt raise the fielding standard of the team but they have to quickly acclimatise to the conditions in Melbourne.

While Twenty20 star Yuvraj Singh is out of action for a couple of matches owing to his knee injury, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina will get the opportunity to prove their worth, depending who gets the chance to be in the playing eleven.

India have a perfect record against Australia in the shortest version of the game alongwith the crowning glory at the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni made it clear that his team would not sit on the past laurels while also putting a rider that luck was a big factor in Twenty20 cricket.

"You have to create balance. I am the guy who doesn't believe in the laurels of the past... luck is a huge factor in this game."

He also said that the match would be a good warm-up for the newcomers ahead of the one-dayers.

"We will treat this Twenty20 game as a practice game as a lot of the boys who have been here still have not got a decent hit," he said.

Tendulkar was the keenest one going around the indoor nets as the Indians sought shelter from the rain.

Tendulkar's mind for this game apparently was made up in Yuvraj Singh's absence as the Indians sought to infuse a touch of experience in their largely young squad.

It still wasn't clear if Tendulkar would come in as opener since India also needs an experienced hand to hold together the innings in the latter stages.

Still, the Indians are likely to follow the dictum of keeping your best batsmen at the top of the order and hence Tendulkar is unlikely to bat lower than number four.

Most of the rest, excepting Virender Sehwag, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh, would have their initiation in Australian conditions on Friday.

Australia are likely to field four fast bowlers' in its ranks with left-armer Nathan Bracken and Brett Lee among the known names and not so well-known figures of Ashley Noffke and Ben Hilfenhaus.

Hilfenhaus is known as the swing king from Tasmania who is already touted for big things in England next year. He has a great outswinger, which he delivers at a high pace. A bricklayer by profession, Hilfenhaus is a quiet character off the field and a volatile one on it.

Noffke is a fast bowler from Queensland who also swings it at a good pace. He first toured with the Australian team in the 2001 Ashes series but since then injuries have proved to be his bane. Like Hilfenhaus, he too is touted for big things in Ashes next year.

Australia has tinkered with its batting line-up as well with David Hussey, the younger brother of the Test star Michael, expected to make his debut on Friday.

David has been in irrepressible form in Twenty20 or in Pura Cup and has got his runs at a rate better than 100 per ball. His presence would make it first time since Waughs that Australia is being represented by two brothers.

The recognised names of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke are all there but for Matthew Hayden whose injured right thigh, it appears, still needs time to heal. Test star Mitchell Johnson too has been given a break.

Along with David Hussey, Victoria's Brad Hodge will also get a big game on Friday. Both Hussey and Hodge are well-past their 30 and it's an indication of how Australia still view their Twenty20 cricket.