India’s Tour of Australia is all set to begin in two weeks time. Given the history of the previous tours Down Under by Team India, this one is all set to be a humdinger. Both the sides are in their transition with Australia facing the crisis of replacements, something India is likely to come in terms with in the next year or two. The injury to the first choice bowlers has hampered the preparation of both the sides. India is on its first overseas assignment after the nightmare they faced in England and question will linger over their ability to sustain in tough conditions abroad. Australians have completely lost their aura that epitomized their golden run for a decade and half and now look with little semblance to the side that beat India 2-1, four years back.
India has been the only side that has constantly challenged Australia home and away in Tests while they traversed the globe crushing every opponent. Twice in 2001 and 2007, Australia’s dream run of winning 16 tests on trot was stopped on their 17th attempt by Indian side that showed character to come back from behind to crack the Aussie juggernaut.
At this juncture, the tour can be a make or break for few individual players. Some of them are the biggest names in the game while others are in their initial steps. Here is a look into the Man to Man comparison of the squad that is likely to take field on the Boxing Day.
Both the side can boast of decent men at the top. India by reputation has the World’s best openers in them. Neither of Sehwag and Gambhir is in form in tests. Sehwag plundered 219 in his last innings and Australian tour has always been a high point. Gambhir is on his first tour and he is not in his best form. Yet the quality that he has, he can be expected to come good soon. Australia has a solid presence of Watson who has been their best batsmen in two years. But he is racing against time to get fit. Warner has proved that he belongs to the arena with fighting hundred against New Zeland and can give nightmare to the India’s young bowlers. In case of Watson being ruled out, the replacement in Phill Hughes does not look good. The positive point for Australia is the familiarity of the conditions. In all, India has a slight edge among the Openers.
India has a solid middle order. Dravid is in form of his life. Tendulkar, on the verge of his Hundredth ton loves batting in Australia and Laxman has been Australia’s nemesis. Kohli and Rohit are fine young batsmen in form and have a great opportunity to cement their places in the side. The magnanimous experience of the trio before them gives them a great advantage. Dhoni can make some solid contribution too. Australia meanwhile, suffers in their middle order. Ponting is no longer a batsman to fear and Hussey looks awfully out of form. Shaun Marsh and Khawaja appear promising and Clarke is often forced to play single handed epic knocks since taking over the side. Haddin of late has not made any innings of substance barring the second innings fifity against South Africa. It can be matter of time before Ponting and Hussey find their groove but however, the possibilities are not too good at the moment. India holds a definite edge in the middle order, thanks to the Trio.
Neither of Dhoni or Haddin can be called as very good keepers behind the stumps. Dhoni is coming from rare rest and is likely to be fresh. Haddin is having a torrid time before and behind the stumps. In terms of the quality, India has a slight edge.
In Ashwin and Ojha, India has two promising youngsters coming from a successful series at home. The alien conditions will test them in a big way and it is going to be a great learning for the young spinners as they mature. Their performance will have a big say on the performance of Indian bowling unit. Australia too has a fresh face in Nathan Lyon but they still have been wounded by the absence of Warne, 4 years since the magician quit. Lyon will be tested by the Indian middle order which is at home against Spin. His backup from one of Beer, Hauritz, O’ Connor will not disturb the sleep of Indians either. Despite their inexperience, Indian spinners have an edge.
Both the sides are missing their first choice pacers. India relies heavily on Zaheer Khan who has missed more matches than any in the side. He is coming from a long injury lay off and India’s performance in the series rests on his broad shoulders the most. In Zaheer can manage to play atleast three tests and find his rhythm, India is likely to retain the Border Gavaskar trophy. Ishanth made the headlines in the last tour but looks a partial half of the one who troubled Ponting. How he performs in conducive pitches will determine India’s series especially if Zaheer is missing. Umesh Yadav has made a promising start to his career and will enjoy bowling in pitches that will aid his pace and seam movement. The backup in Mithun and Vinay looks awful at best. Australia is missing the service of Harris, Bollinger, Johnson and Cummins. The current attack of Siddle, Starc and Pattinson looks good. Pattinson has been another of 2011’s famed debutants with terrific bowling against New Zeland. He can trouble the Indian batsmen with his pace and swing, and his performance is likely to bear an effect on the course of the series. Starc and Cutting have not been much tested internationally and this is their chance to make roads in their career. Hilfenhaus can be effective if he finds his foot. In all, Australia holds an edge in pace department.
Man to Man comparison keeps India ahead but cricket is not just about individuals. Dhoni and Clarke are smart skippers and Dhoni has a good experience in his pocket. How the teams fare will depend on the ability of Indian bowlers to adapt to the conditions and Australian batsmen to find form against an attack dented by the injuries. All in all, a strong contest is expected though the quality may be found wanting compared to the previous series between the two sides. Long Live the India Australia rivalry.