MS Dhoni (capt &wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar:, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Zaheer Khan (subject to fitness).
The Selectors need to be commended for the Squad they have selected. Which is a perfect blend of youth and experience. That has rewarded the many young players in it for their fine displays in the Test arena or in First Class Cricket.
It is also a Squad, that has the quality within it to win its first Test series on Australian soil. To make this potential of a series win a reality, a few questions have to be answered by the Indian Team within the 4 Test series. They are as follows
The Fitness of Zaheer Khan?
There is little doubt that India's fortunes in the past has been dictated too by the fitness of Zaheer Khan. If you doubt this, just look at the ill fated England Tour. Where in the 13.3 overs bowled before breaking down. He took 2/18, including making a man regarded as one of the best batsmen in the World at present in Alistair Cook look silly, and troubling all the rest of the English.
As soon as he left the team, it sunk quicker than the SS Titanic
Understandably so, when you take into account that Zaheer in his last 11 Tests has taken 53 wickets with an exceptional average of 22.71. Away from his figures, Zaheer is the undisputed leader of the Indian attack, and without him the rest couldn't step up from their supportive roles.
Keeping this in mind, there is little doubt about his importance to the Indian Team, but the oil in the ointment is how fragile his body is. The Indian powers that be who in the past have just lived with this reality, and duly lived or died by it have been proactive since England. Firstly by instigating a succession plan for life without Zaheer by investing faith in young bowlers such as Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Then by selecting him for this Tour, but making it conditional by Zaheer having to prove without a shadow of a doubt his fitness by performing in Ranji games.
If Zaheer is fit, and then performs how he can, it transform the Indian Team into one that is arguably the best in the World, and one that should steamroll this Australian line up.
Can The New Indian Spin Twins of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ohja be a Factor in Australia?
In watching the two spinners destroy the West Indian batsmen in the current 3 Test series with a combined 42 wickets at under 22 a clip. The only reaction was to stand and applaud.
Though when the series ended, and you looked forward to their prospects in Australia, you had to put the performance into context. Firstly, the West Indies batsmen are embarrassingly bad in playing against spin. In watching them in this series, and previously in Bangladesh, I felt sure I could unfurl a few chinamen and be successful against them.
Then away from this, is the fact that traditionally even spinners defined as great struggle in Australian conditions. Lets look at a few figures of spinners in Australia
Muttiah Muralidaran: 5 Tests, 12 wickets, average 75.41 (career average 22.72)
Graeme Swann: 5 Tests, 15 wickets, average 39.80 (career average 28.82)
Harbhajan Singh: 4 Tests, 9 wickets, average 73.22 (career average 32.22)
Anil Kumble: 10 Tests, 49 wickets, average 37.73 (career average: 29.65)
Daniel Vettori: 11 Tests, 35 wickets, average 39.97 (career average: 33.61)
The figures compellingly show that finger spinners, for which both Ohja and Ashwin are, struggle in Australian conditions.
Naturally the past is always there as a guide, and not a certainty of what might happen in the present. Helping these two fine young spinners to change that trend is the fact that most of those bowlers had to bowl against great Aussie batting line ups. Which logically blew their figures out. This Aussie line up is nowhere close to the ones from the past, and then has a reputation of having a weakness against spin. So this will have the new Indian spin twins looking forward to their prospects.
Their relative success or failure on the Tour will be decisive in whether India can win the series
There is little doubt that after leading India to the World Cup win that M.S.Dhoni is revered in India. Though through objective eyes, you view him as a fabulous all round player and Captain in the shorter forms of the game, but somewhat lacking in Tests.
In Tests, he brings the same defensive mannerisms that are so successful in the shorter forms of the game into the Test arena. Which is ok, when you are beating up on a dreadful Team like the West Indies, but it stands out like dogs balls, when it is the key reason for the Indian Team being deprived of snatching a remarkable Test series victory in South Africa, After being flayed in the 1st Test.
I say this, for after levelling the series 1 all in the 2nd Test. The Indians had the South Africans on the rack at 5/98 in the 2nd innings with a lead of 100 from the 1st completed innings. Further propelled by a dreadfully out of form Mark Boucher walking in, and Harbhajan Singh rampant after getting 4 of the first 5 wickets, and 7/120 in the innings.
Logically you would attack to get ride of Boucher, and try to dismiss the South Africans with a lead of under 150. Though from ball one to Boucher, 4 were on the fence, and he was allowed an armchair ride on his way to a decisive 55. That sunk any chance of an Indian series win. All sadly due to Dhoni, not being proactive in recognising a chance and seizing it with attack minded Captaincy. That has it's origins in getting wickets, and not saving runs like in ODI's/T20!
In this series against an Australian Team still trying to find credibility on the World scene, Dhoni needs to be more attack minded in his Captaincy for India to win.
There is little doubt that most would expect the Indian batsmen to Lord it over the Australian bowlers. Though as always with any Indian Squad, the biggest question mark will be over the ability of their bowling unit to get 20 wickets.
A huge key to this will not only be the bowlers, but how they are supported in the field. For as we saw in England, when they were dominated, one of the first facets of their game to be broken down was their fielding. Which in truth went from being reliable and respected to embarrassingly bad.
The English did this by proactive batting, through taking every chance for a single or turning ones into two's. That duly messed up the Indian bowling plans against individual players with the strike being rotated so regularly.
Under the tutelage of new Coach Mickey Arthurs, you can be sure the Australian's will try the same tactics against the Indians.
Duly, how the Indian's counter this in the field will go a long way to success in the series. For if they are on top of it, the threat of the bowling unit will be enhanced, but by the same token, if they are not, it will seriously undermine it.
Virender Sehwag's Meaning to the Batting
There is little doubt this Indian batting line up is one of the best in the games history with true legends of the game.
It is arguable, who is its most important part, but in my mind it is Virender Sehwag. Supporting my contention is the fact that previous to the England Tour, in Sehwag's 86 Tests, India had won 35, lost 19 and drawn 32. We saw how their batting was reduced from its normal masterful demeanour to a pale shadow of itself in his absence in England.
In this Tour, his form will be crucial, not only because of the immense pressure it puts on the opposition, but the stress it takes off the middle order. In the knowledge that they can come in and get their eyes in without having to worry about run rates or the focus being on them. For when Sehwag is on a rampage, all attention is on him..........
If, Viru can dominate like we know he can, India will be warm favourites to win the series...
Lets hope for play like this from him, previously at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
I have two predictions, which are as follows:
If Zaheer Khan is fit: India will win 3 nil
If Zaheer Khan is unfit: India will win 1 nil
I cannot see how Australia will be able to bowl this Indian batting line up out. Then in return, I have huge doubts over India's ability to bowl Australia out without Zaheer Khan, but the Australian batting line up has many weaknesses. That India can exploit even without Zaheer Khan