Tuesday, November 29, 2011

India v Australia - An Early Preview

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India's World Cup win and easy Test matches against the West Indies, have helped mask their Test match vulnerability against quality opposition on challenging pitches. The popular sentiment has been that England was a one-off debacle, where they were unlucky with injuries.

The real Test will come in Australia.

The Numbers
Over the most recent 24 month period, India and Australia have had remarkably similar numbers. However, India has won the perception game with everyone. The general feeling is that Australia is a weakened side in trouble while largely everything is okay with India. India has walked away relatively scot free in delivering the same numbers with a far more experienced side.

Leaving head-to-head contests aside, both have not lost a series to anyone other than England. It is due to India's dominance over Australia in the head-to-head contests that allows it to enjoy a slight edge in the overall numbers.

The context - A loss should end careers but it won't
Both India and Australia have been reluctant to make decisive changes in favor of youth. Admittedly in Australia's case such a stance would have been far more easy and justifiable. It is however India's seniors who need to win this series more than Australia's because the quality of talent on the Indian bench is far greater than Australia's. It may sound crazy but it is the side that loses the series, which will emerge stronger, sooner.

Although it is not entirely impossible, it would be ridiculous if Sachin, Rahul and VVS do not announce their retirements if India lose this series.

History - Its never been done before
India's best chance of winning a series in Australia was in 1986. Perhaps the most balanced Indian side to ever tour Australia. That team came within a whisker of taking the series 2-0, but rain at Sydney and a reluctance to trust the Melbourne weather man cost us wins in both Tests.

The 1977-78 series was the most entertaining. Played against the back drop of the threat from Kerry Packer a second string Australian side came back from 2 Test matches down to beat India 3-2.

If anything can be learnt from India's bold 1-1 performance in 1981, it is that in and against Australia, attacking batting goes a long way. I will always remember the series for Sandip Patil's brilliant counter attack after he was felled by a Len Pascoe bouncer and taken to the hospital.

The 2003-04 series showcased India's batting might but a lack of a consistent bowler (that rules out Ajit Agarkar) to support Anil Kumble meant that India's batsmen were asked to win the series all by themselves. They almost did but Steve Waugh's batting saved the day for Australia.

The 2007-08 series was fraught with tensions and the tomfoolery of Ricky Ponting and Harbhajan Singh. Outisde of Perth though India's only solace was the proud manner in which Anil Kumble led them. While Rahul Dravid is a good choice to deliver the The Sir Don Bradman Speech, I suspect Kumble has a better sense of occasion and history to choose his words that convey his wisdom and ultimately a personalized message; but I digress.

If India wins....
The heros will have to be Virendra Sehwag, Varun Aron, Umesh Yadav, Virat Kohli and somehow Rohit Sharma. 

If India loses...
Ricky Ponting's career will be resurrected. Pat Cummins will be the new Brett Lee; if not the new Glenn McGrath. Sehwag will advice David Warner to take up golf.

The Prediction
I am doing a Jaywant Lele here. I say 0-2 with India managing draws at Sydney and Adelaide and comfortably humilaiting losses at Melbourne and Perth, where they will be felled by Cummins. And yes, Zaheer Khan will last an entire Test Match. This is my stretch prediction.

The Justification - Yes I am still not over the England 4 India 0 score line
Not all wins are equal. Neither are losses. Some loses reveal a lot more than we are willing to read into. India's 4 Test match losses in England were not just shocking and humiliating but it also served an indicator of many collective missteps that no one is willing to talk about. Also a win-loss transaction is not a zero sum game. What England gained from the 4 wins, India lost far more than that. England simply confirmed their standing, India brushed the loss aside as "bad luck" and swept their real problems under the carpet. India are no longer as good as they were a year back and it will show in Australia.


straight point said...

to me india 'drawing' the last test against windies with only three front like bowlers and a part timer in samuel at home reveals more about how mediocre this team has become...

imagine if sehwag not made those runs we either would have lost or played for draw... *shudder*

it seems its in the contract of our illustrated seniors that run making has to be left to sehwag they just carry on doing things at their own pace irrespective of circumstances...

Vidooshak said...

SP -

Agree completely. On a featherbed tailormade for India to run up the score, the batsmen delivered a combined egg.

Sehwag is the fig leaf.

Vidooshak said...

Gol -

A lot depends on whether the Australian bowlers recover from injury. I think Ryan Harris and Pat Cummins will be key for Australia. Ishant Sharma and Ashwin will be key for India.

This is India's best chance after 1986.

Golandaaz said...

In a way Segwag absence exposed our middle order even in England.

Golandaaz said...


If you are looking at how weak Australia seem then I agree that not since 86 they have seemed so vulnerable.

However I am not too optimistic about us capitalizing on that.

About Ashwin too. He seems like a real deal and if he gets wickets then we may have a contest but very rarely has a visiting spinner dictated a series in Australia.

I think one of the 3 pacers will have to have an outstanding series or Zaheer needs to hold up for 4 Tests; which is a big ask

Vidooshak said...

I think the selectors missed a trick by not including Irfan. He's been in form in Ranji.

Australians traditionally have been weak against good off-spin. So I'm optimistic about Ashwin. As for whether that will translate into 20 wickets per test is difficult to fathom. Ishant has to re-deliver against Ponting and some of the newcomers for India to have a chance.