Thursday, February 21, 2013

Preview, 1st Test, India versus Australia, Chennai

Gone are the days when this series was a series between the undisputed champ and its most respected challenger in a clash that showcased some of the best players the game has seen in an atmosphere where you could cut the air with a knife. The palpable tension still remains because of the meaning of the rivalry, but the class in the line ups has now been replaced by two Teams struggling with the burden of rebuilding.

In an almost surreal shift, this series used to be decided by which of the best- performed better. But now it could be about which of the Teams makes the least mistakes

Needless to say, confidence to the two will be crucial making this 1st Test so important to both

The Pitch 

This pitch was always going to be spin friendly, but with Australia naming their 11 48 hours ago with it containing 4 quicks. You know the curators will be out there trimming all the grass off it.

Expect the first few days to be a runfest and then it to support spin in the sincerest way

Likely Teams


The big talking point for the Indian 11 is their opening pair and the make up of the bowling.

It seems likely that the local Murali Vijay will join Virender Sehwag at the top of the order meaning the seemingly cursed Ajinkya Rahane will miss out again.

Away from the batting, Spin seems to be guiding India's every thought with them likely to play 4 spinners like they did in the 4th Test against England. With Ishant Sharma being the soul fast man. My main criticism of this is not the amount of spinners they are playing, but the lack of variety in the ones chosen leading to a lack of balance in the attack. The Team should have included a leg spinner rather than have two left armers and two offies

My gripe aside, the likely Team is as follows

Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha


The Aussies named their Team on Tuesday with its main talking point being the inclusion of only one spinner on what is likely to be a spinning paradise. This has great merit, but their turning their back on this obvious inclusion is mainly due to them having no faith at all in the options available. With all of Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith looking impostors at the Test level. So they basically have chosen to play to their strengths by choosing 4 quicks. Moises Henriques selection has raised eyebrows, but again it seems he has been earmarked to fill the huge void Shane Watson has left in the team with his reverse swing with the old ball.

The Team is as follows

David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (c), Matthew Wade (wk), Moises Henriques, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson.

The Keys to Winning


The Indians have virtually made this series solely and wholly about spin with no apparent back up plan if like in the England series their Plan A is blown a way.

Making them rest easier at night as they enter this game is the knowledge that Australia has no quality spinners in their ranks like England did. Meaning their batting that was so undone by the 37 wickets the English spinners took against them will have better prospects here.

Onto the game with everything being about the support afforded the spinners so that they can dominate

This begins before a ball is bowled with them needing to win the toss and bat first to get the full benefit of their bowlers having the use of a wearing pitch with Australia batting last on it. Also batting first means they will be greeted by a true paradise to thrive on.

Here is where the game will be largely decided by how the under performing Indian batting goes. They have been essentially carried by youngsters Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli lately with contributions from Ravichandran Ashwin at 7.

The rest to be frank have been burdens on the Team and need to lift. You just have to look at their averages in 2012 to see truth in this

Virender Sehwag- 9 Tests, average 31.56, 1 century

Gautam Gambhir- 9 Tests, average 31.6, no centuries

Sachin Tendulkar- 9 Tests, average 23.8, no centuries

These substandard performances has seen Gambhir dropped and presents India with a new issue of a new opening partnership with it likely to be Murali Vijay and Virender Sehwag. How they go will have a great effect on the rest of the batting with a good start allowing the likes of Pujara and Kohli to have decisive effects as well as the out of form veterans a chance to re-find their past mastery. But, if they fail, the pressure comes on, and a batting line up that has been notoriously frail could crumble.

The performance of the batting is crucial, but the main plot line will be the bowlers performance and M.S.Dhoni's tactics to them.Firstly the bowlers, the pitches will be in their favour but they need to bowl to best utilise them. The English series saw all of the spinners go a way from the tried and true formula of the bowling of their stock ball in an exemplary fashion supported by the surprise of variety. Too much variety was employed meaning lines were lost and any pressure that could of facilitated wickets was never apparent. Even when one bowler did get it right, they were undermined by the lack of support from bowlers at the other end.

Starting in this game, they need to be remarked on for the relentless assault highlighted by their consistency and their hunt in pack mentality. As seen in them bowling in partnerships.

Then there is M.S.Dhoni...........

Pure and simple, if the spin ploy is to be successful he needs to support it with more proactive tactics.

Please give the 4 on fence from ball one of a spinners spell a rest Mr Dhoni!


The Team selected meaning getting 20 wickets will be largely dependant on their pace corps.  A collection of fast men that has real quality about it but will be undermined by the pitch that will be designed to deaden any benefit to pace

The key will be their effectiveness with the new ball and ability to swing it. If they can, it sets up the likes of Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson to be deadly dangerous against an Indian batting line up with a new opening partnership and a middle order with many questions over it. Moises Henriques has been selected to be the defensive bowler and his success or failure will allow the main strike men to be utilised in short sharp spells. In an attempt to rattle a few Indian cages

How the pacemen go will decide whether Nathan Lyon can be a factor in the role he is best suited in as a support bowler with the backing of the pressure of the scoreboard. If conversely the quicks fail to get early break throughs and he is expected to be a strike weapon it is likely he will struggle and get mauled.

Lyon's performance will have a huge bearing on Australia's prospects....

Away from the bowling we get to see how the batting goes in its first Test after Mike Hussey's retirement. His absence in a fragile batting line up will obviously be felt but how the others in his line up pick up his slack will be crucial in this series.

Looking at the Australia top 6 bar the established genius of Michael Clarke you come to the conclusion that it is a line up of 'maybe men'. That tease you often, but rarely if even make you have faith in them with their consistency. They will be supremely challenged here in foreign conditions against the turning ball with only Michael Clarke and Shane Watson having experience in Indian confines

And ask anyone about the value of experience in India

The batting is a huge worry and needs to have a few rise for it to be a winning factor. The man most likely is Shane Watson, who played very well in his last series to India, and needs to replicate those deeds. The top 3 will hold a huge key with it being notoriously fragile of late, but they simply have to find a way here. Ed Cowan, who has Test player written all over him, but has frustrated for the most of his time in whites needs to be a factor here

If the likes of Michael 'Bradman' Clarke can get support in the batting then they have a chance to surprise a few in this 1st Test and series

The Games X-Factor

The two Teams are in a re-building stage with them having many holes in their line up.

But the one aspect that could be a huge factor in this Test and series is the attitude within the group.

You have a enthusiastic Aussie line up that has a propensity to fight to the death against an Indian line up that of late has shamed themselves by giving up all too easily.

How these attitudes rear in the crucial moments will be decisive in who will be victorious


The toss will be crucial

And though I have little faith in India's batting or bowling

I have less faith in Australia's

Meaning an Indian Win

1 comment:

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