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The old curse has returned (some may argue that it never actually went away, just that it was shovelled under the carpet for long enough to be "out of sight, out mind"). The rib-tickler may once again help in forcing India out of a global competition on foreign soil. However, the inability to play the short ball is only a symptom. The real malaise, should Team India fail to progress in the 2010 edition of the World T20, will be the batsmen's inability to think their way to success - yet again.
Any batsman who tells you they love facing the short ball at upwards of 145 km/h is lying. Facing Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes in full flight on a remotely helpful deck is not nearly as easy as it looks on TV. Unlike Mitchell Johnson who is fast but predictable, Nannes and Tait possess an X-factor that makes them particularly difficult for a batsman to pick up and play when they're on song.
All this does not mean Australia's pace arsenal cannot be faced, quelled and even conquered. Brendan McCullum showed in the second match of the recent T20 series against the Aussies in Christchurch that the pace and bounce must be turned into the batsmen's advantage, for very few people can pull and hook like Ricky Ponting and Kevin Pietersen and in the middle of a pressure cooker international match is not the time to experiment and learn.
MS Dhoni's "fight fire with fire" attitude has achieved him much success and earned him many plaudits since 2007. However, getting caught with your pants down will only serve to take some of the sheen off his fast-building legacy. I wonder if Team India has seen the footage of McCullum's assault on the Aussies earlier this year? While McCullum's freakish scoops hogged the limelight in all post-match bulletins from that day, Team India must look beyond the glitz and realise that the Kiwis used the pace and the bounce to play plenty of up-and-unders that brought runs untold. If there's one shot that Indians play well, it is the ramp shot on the on-side between the 'keeper and point. You complete the maths.
Team India's re-found predicament calls for real fire fighting equipment: cool heads. If there's anyone with the ability to bring about this cool change, it is Captain Cool, Dhoni. Now, is the best time to start.
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