Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Preview, India versus Australia Test Series

This series used to quite literally stop traffic with the upstart Indian's being one of the few Teams that had the plumbs to stand up to the all conquering Aussies. Which always led to series of real drama that were filled tension with the Indians not only having the courage to challenge, but then the skill and belief to come out on top on more than one occasion. 

Those days are sadly gone with both Teams being reduced to real mediocrity within their line ups. Line ups, that used to resemble a constellation of stars for both now containing lesser lights, diminished greats and other players are likely to be found out as impostors in the highest form of the game.

Ironically, this diminished nature of both line ups could again lead to a classic because of the evenness between the Teams

The Schedule/Pitches


1st Test: India v Australia at Chennai
Feb 22-26, 2013 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)

2nd Test: India v Australia at Hyderabad (Deccan)
Mar 2-6, 2013 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)

3rd Test: India v Australia at Mohali
Mar 14-18, 2013 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)

4th Test - India v Australia at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
Fri Mar 22 - Tue Mar 26 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)

The one thing you know if India has any sense at all is to identify that pace bowling is the strength in the Aussie Team with there main weakness being the fragility and lack of experience in their batting and the bereft nature of their Spin resources

So with India being fragile in their batting especially against pace bowling and lacking quality and depth in their own fast men. The command would have gone out to deaden the pitches and make the series all about spin.

There is no guarantee that this could be successful with India also lacking any real calibre in their Spin bowling but it is their best chance to win. With the pitches eliminating Australia's fast men and allowing India's batsmen to have their best chance to excel. Plus the Indian spinners might lack quality and experience, but might get a arm chair ride by the lack of experience and calibre in the Aussie batting

Assessing the Squads

India 


MS Dhoni (capt.), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda

The chosen Indian squad was characterised by the axing of Gautam Gambhir meaning India's best opening pair and in fact one of the best opening partnership in Test history was broken. Meaning one of the series key story lines is the impact this decision has on the Team with good starts being one of its feared recent strengths. 

Outside of this main talking point a few key factors were overlooked. The loss to the side of fast bowling spearhead Umesh Yadav is huge with him offering that strike bowling entity that India so craves. Then the recall of Harbhahjan Singh is curious from a form point of view, and  also a balance aspect in the bowling unit. With the Mumbai Test against England showing this with Harbhajan's selection throwing India's balance way out alongside  a fellow off spinner Ravichandran AShwin that offered the Team little variety.. Greater sense would have seen a leg spinner be selected and if they wanted Harbhajan back in the Team, then Ashwin needed to go.

Australia 

 David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (capt), Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Matthew Wade (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Lyon.

The Australian squad for this series stood out for its lack of experience with it being the least experience Aussie Team to leave our shores in 30 years.

That is a huge concern going into this series.....

Away from that, the main concern was the basis of selection with many of the names getting a Test cap based on their performances in the T20 Big Bash. 

Which is supreme lunacy and a recipe for disaster

Assessing the Teams Batting

India


Swiss Cheese is what I think of when I look at the current Indian batting line up with it having so many holes in it

This was highlighted in the England series with the Teams batting basically being carried by a youngster in Cheteshwar Pujara and to a lesser extent Virat Kohli. When Pujara started to struggle in the last two Tests , the Indian batting looked very average indeed with its middle order succumbing meekly.
 
As this series begins that issue has been greatly impacted on by the dropping of Gautam Gambhir meaning a new opening pair will have to be formed. The relative success or failure of this new pairing could ultimately decide the series with success allowing the inconsistent and under performing batsmen in the 4-7 positions to be shielded. But failure meaning greater pressure on Pujara, which if he succumbs puts the acid on those batsmen to perform.

The very composition of the opening pair is in question with most assuming long term opener Virender Sehwag will remain in this role. But it has been touted that he might be put in the line up at 6 away from the new ball, and this could be a move that could rejuvenate Viru. As well as killing two birds with one stone by filling that number 6 position that has remained contentious since Sourav Ganguly retired.

So two of Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan will more than likely open. In my mind Rahane needs to play, not only because he deserves a chance, but for the attitude he brings to the side. You saw this in the England series with India going into one of their shameful recent give up phases and as 12th Rahane doing every thing at short leg to prop up the shocking attitude in the Team. 

Real leadership that needs to be inserted into the team.

Of the other two, it would seem Murali Vijay is the favourite with him having the backing of an average of 47.5 in his 5 Tests at home including a century against Australia.
Away from this issue, the veterans in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag need to lift for India to have a chance.

You are a fool to doubt a true Master like Tendulkar, but after two years of struggles including a 2012 where he averaged just 23.80 the question mark against his name gets bigger with every failure

Lets hope he reminds us of his past genius in this series....

With the expected closeness in the Teams, the performance of the Teams tails could be decisive. On this point, India is quite strong with M.S.Dhoni always a factor at 7 and a tail containing many dangerous batsmen and few bunnies

Rating: 4/10 

In my mind too much relies on Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli and with both being youngster and the inconsistency attached to youth this is not a fact that engenders faith in India's batting.

The questions over the opening partnership and middle order makes you doubt it even more

Australia

The retirement of Michael Hussey has taken the Australian batting from borderline acceptable to being potentially diabolical. As well as adding extra pressure to Michael Clarke to keep carrying the batting without Mr Crickets expert assistant 

A bit like a Batman without Robin scenario.........

This issue has had fuel thrown on its potential fire by the Selectors deciding to only choose 6 specialist batsmen for the tour with the back ups batsmen if they fail coming from bits and pieces players with little or no performances of note in First Class Cricket in Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith.

It is just lucky in the face of overlooking specialist batsmen as back up that the current Aussie top 6 is so 'established'.....

Well Michael Clarke is with question marks against the rest

Impacted on greatly by the likelihood that the Selectors will employ a spinning all round in either Steve Smith or Glenn Maxwell in at 6 in a vain attempt to make their spin corps competitive.

To be kind to both, they are great T20 players and little more

Away from this reality, the issues for the batting starts with the under performing top three with all of Dave Warner, Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes showing glimpses that they belong in the Test arena one moment, and then looking like Club Cricketers in the next. There performances have not been helped by the constant innuendo about Shane Watson's role in the Team, and how he wants bat in the top 3.

Even an objective judge would question Watson's right to be in the team as a batsman alone after only averaging 27.70 in his last two years in the 'whites' with no centuries

Though he is not deserving, he will be in the Team, and if sense prevails he will be told to let his bat do the talking and put in the line up at 5 where his free flowing style would be suited. Rather than at the top where his dreadful running between wickets is exposed and inability to accumulate runs becomes a huge issue.with the pressure it exerts on himself as well as his partner. 

Ultimately, the key in this series for Australia will be how they go against the expected spin onslaught. Only Michael Clarke and Shane Watson are proven against it with the rest of the line up being characterised by its inexperience. Which could prove crucial in a cauldron like setting like India with fielders yapping under your lid in all directions driving green batsmen to distraction and demise. 

The success of the Team will rest on the players in the batting lifting to support Michael Clarke...

Keeping this in mind all need to lift, but in my mind this is Shane Watson's Waterloo with him being offered the chance of real respect with a good series. Or ultimately cast aside for the Ashes with patience running thin on him with even MIchael Clarke questioning his place in the Team as solely a batsman

Rating: 3/10


Mike Hussey's retirement is huge, and will be massively felt during this series 
The individuals in the top 6 need to lift to support Clarke, but have you faith in any of them? 

Assessing the Teams Bowling 

India


As mentioned earlier, the loss of Umesh Yadav to this bowling line up is huge with him offering a vindicated top class pace spearhead that could pave the way for the spinners to bowl with pressure on the batsman. Rather than having to come on with the scoreboard at 120/1, and forced to bowl defensive lines with in out fields. 

Crucial in a series that will likely become about spin is how the pacemen set the table for the spinners. Ishant Sharma is key in this with him having to man up and lead the attack with people sick and tired of hearing about his 'potential' and wanting instead to see consistent performance from him.

All the pacemen, and the Indian think tank would have noticed the massive weakness that Australia has against swing meaning along with Ishant that the swing bowler
Bhuvneshwar Kumar Singh could become an unexpected factor if he can get the new ball to hoop.

It is just a pity that an established swing bowler in Praveen Kumar has been curiously consigned to the Indian wilderness. For I think he could have been like a hot knife through the buttery Aussie batting line up.

Ultimately Indian will live and die by the performance of their spinners

On this point, first and foremost they need to get the balance in their spin unit right. They will more than likely choose to play three spinners, but I think this would be a mistake. I say this for three spinners have been selected in the Squad with Pragyan Ohja being a definite to start. Which leaves Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh. Both offies, and when they played together in the Mumbai Test against England showed they are mismatched.

I would select Harbhajan, mostly for the experience he bring to the series in comparison to Ashwin, Bhahji has the skill to be a factor from a wicket sense and the Test know how to be a perfect support bowler for Ohja. Who is a beautiful bowler and a huge threat to the Aussies, but needs the support of pressure from his spin partner. 

Bhahji, also offers an expert in mind games, that against a very inexperienced Aussie batting line up could prove crucial.

As for Ashwin, he showed he had talent against England, but was undone by his inexperience. That saw him turn his back on the need for a relentless consistency in Test Cricket in lines and lengths and the pressure it builds. Then he bowled a liquorice all sorts assortment of deliveries, rather than realising that success is built around his stock ball being bowled to its optimum and his varieties being an Ace up his sleeve.
The unspoken factor in the potential success of the spinners will be the tactics employed by M.S.Dhoni when they bowl. He has cruelled them in the past by being ultra defensive with run saving rather than wicket taking being at the forefront of his thinking. In this series, he simply must be more attacking in support of them.

Rating 4.5/10

Pace Bowling- 1/5- Can you trust ishant to be a factor, and then unknown youngsters in support of him?

Spin Bowling- 3.5/5- I have real belief in Ohja to be a decisive factor in this series 

Australia

This series presents Australia with a cruel setting that will more than likely do everything in its power to kill off its pace attack

A pace battery that could destroy the questionable Indian batting line up on an even playing field. But in this series barring mutiny from the Indian curators, you know the pitches will be dead as the proverbial Dodo  and characterised by their lack of bounce and slowness.

The key in this will be the ability of the Aussies to bowl swing which has a huge question mark against all their names

Shane Watson's loss to the bowling ranks is a huge blow in Sub Continent conditions with him being one of the few who has shown a real aptitude in bowling swing. Especially his Irish Swing, which is often lethal.

A huge emphasise will fall on Mitchell Starc from this point of view with him showing glimpses of real skill in swing.in his infancy in the Test arena. Also swing at real pace.

The sad part about Starc is he might be overlooked by selectors with Jackson Bird and Peter Siddle being certainties and the Selectors love affair with Mitchell Johnson likely to continue. You can fully back the big hearted Bird and Siddle in the Team, but if they select Johnson over Starc that will be a huge mistake.

With Johnson being a one trick pony with him having pace and little more

In my mind for Australia to be successful, the pace attack needs to take most of the wickets. I say this for the Spinners selected are bereft of any class. This might be a harsh call on Nathan Lyon, who has had a very respectable Test career, but his figures are skewed by Michael Clarke using him very much as a situational bowler. In the times he has needed to be a strike bowler as seen in the Test against South Africa in Adelaide he has failed dismally.

Backing him up as the 2nd spinner is the left armer Xavier Doherty with his average of over 80 with the ball in first class Cricket this year and a career average of 44.78. As we saw in the Ashes a few years ago, where he averaged over 100 with the ball he is nowhere near Test class.

You also have Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith as potential inclusions as spinning all rounders at 6.....

My mother taught me if you are not going to say something nice about some one then do not say any thing at all

So I will let my silence be my judge on them.........

Rating- 4.5/ 10


Pace- 3.5/5- Excellent pace trio, it is just a pity the condition of the pitches will likely kill their effectiveness

Spin- 1/5- They would not trouble a Chennai girls side, so they will get mauled by the Indian batsmen


Prediction 


A series that pits two very average Teams

I just think the pitches will kill Australia's greatest strength in their pace attack and the inexperience in their batting will be exposed by India's Spinners.

With Pragyan Ohja dominating.

India to win 2 nil


3 comments:

  1. why is everyone saying ....
    "the team is mediocre because our old stars are gone?"
    new leaves grow only after older ones fall off.
    why isn't anyone happy about the fact that we have started building a newer and maybe an even better army of youngsters to represent India ?

    the likes of Sachin ,Ganguly, Dravid Laxman were awesome ... they are legends... i agree, but it's time we accept the fact that none of them is getting any younger. So let them carry on with their lives, they didn't make a big deal out of retiring, why should "we" the fans be any different?

    let's just look at the plus-side of things.
    We have a young and talented pool of pacers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Iswar Pandey, Ashok Dinda, Shami Ahmed, Parvinder Awana, and a experienced youngsters like Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth, and in my opinion, we finally have enough quality bowlers in the side to field a 4-prong pace attack IF the conditions are right.
    Batting seems to be in good hands with Kohli, Pujara, Jadeja, Ambati Rayudu, Murali Vijay, shikar Dawan, getting into the thick of things lead by the seniors, Dhoni, Yuvi and Sachin.

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  2. Hello Tim Sir, as always I was eager to read your preview and expected you to write in favor of India's win.. You wrote in favor of India when India toured down under but you was proved wrong.. Now, again, get ready to be proved wrong ;) Aussies' pace attack is underrated I guess.. Anyhow it was a nice read.

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  3. Pretty fair assessment of both teams. However I feel India's batting is actually stronger than you mention, just because players like Dhawan - selected in place of Gambhir - haven't played Test cricket before doesnt make them lesser players.

    Australia's batting may also be a tad stronger than it seems IF (and only if) the selectors place Watson back at the top of the order. If he gets the team off to a good start, the middle order can capitalise on this and nullify India's spin attack.

    As for Harbhajan being selected again, with the leader of the bowling attack - Zaheer Khan being unfit - India requires a seasoned campaigner. Ashwin also did Harbhajan a favour by losing a lot of his bowling form at the moment.

    Should be a cracking series due to both teams rebuilding at the moment, the only thing I miss is the pre-series banter that the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has given us since 2001!

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