Bronze images of legends stare at you as you approach the Melbourne Cricket Ground. A sense of history is overwhelming in this hallowed arena ahead of a Twenty20 face-off.
These are, however, modern times when the game’s dynamics are changing. Sir Donald Bradman, Bill Ponsford and Dennis Lillee could well be gazing at cricket’s latest avatar when World Champion India and Australia meet in what should be a high-octane duel on Friday night.
It rained on Thursday morning here but the clouds cleared by afternoon. Pleasant weather has been forecast for Friday evening. The heat should be provided by two rummaging teams.
After a tense Test series, a Twenty20 game at a famous venue before what could be a record house should be a lot of fun. The MCG could be a blaze of colour.
Ricky Ponting made a confession on Thursday. He said, “Twenty20 is growing on me.”
The Aussie skipper added his men are approaching the format more seriously now.
Twenty20 is popular, brings in the money, and the doubters are now alive to the immense possibilities of this version.
Nursing a sore back, Ponting is a doubtful starter for the one-off international. He practised on Thursday and will have time till Friday evening to assess his fitness.
The teams will be watched by a crowd of 90,000 spectators or more.
Ponting said the home spectators would not be hostile towards the Indians after a bitter Test series.
His counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni responded, “as long as the crowd is not on the arena, it does not matter.”
The young captain may be low on runs but is high on confidence.
India has defeated Australia on both previous occasions the teams met in Twenty20 cricket — in the World Championship semifinal in South Africa and the one-off international in Mumbai. Dhoni cleverly took the pressure off his team.
The side was more intent on giving the newly arrived ODI specialists some practice ahead of the tri-series he said.
The captain then added, “I don’t know how the Australians would approach it. A one-off match is not like a World Cup game for us.”
He and his men comprehend well the nuances of Twenty20. They have so far dished out a fearless, innovative and winning brand of cricket.
The side has the big hitters, the variety in bowling, and the energy on the field. The team has also responded well to pressure situations, found men who put their hands up.
India will miss the injured Yuvraj Singh but Suresh Raina has the flair to seize an opportunity.
S. Sreesanth should bring in dash and aggression to the bowling front but the paceman along with Harbhajan Singh will have to be careful on the behaviour front.
Given what transpired in the Test series, a small incident could trigger a chain of events again.
Considering that Twenty20 is a young man’s game, it remains to be seen if Sachin Tendulkar would be willing to push the clock back to compete in a one-off match. The indications are that the maestro is more focussed on the tri-series.
Australia will be keen to open its account against India. The selectors, picking a point from India, have fielded a more youthful side in this format. The fresh faces should be keen and eager.
And MCG awaits the game’s new child and a World Champion with bated breath.