Thursday, December 15, 2011

India Down Under

It’s that time of the year again, when all things move south and what better place than Australia. The Christmas period is upon us and the traditional Boxing Day test awaits us. Watching cricket in Australia is a different experience all together; massive grounds, large crowds, sporting wickets all make viewing a pleasurable experience. I sometimes wonder how strange it must be for Australians to celebrate Christmas during Summer time. I guess Santa in Australia doesn’t come on a Sleigh, a Ferrari perhaps to beat the heat.

After the bitter disappointment of the England Series, the Indian fans are expecting a much better show down under. I believe that they have the right team to do the job. The WI series has given the key players some good batting practice and this should help in their performance. The team which I think India should put out for the Melbourne Test is,

(1) Virender Sehwag

(2) Gautam Gambhir

(3) Rahul Dravid

(4) Sachin Tendulkar

(5) VVS Laxman

(6) Rohit Sharma

(7) MS Dhoni

(8) R Ashwin

(9) Zaheer Khan

(10) Ishant Sharma

(11) Umesh Yadav

Looking at the top 6, except Gambhir, everyone else has been among the runs. The true wickets at Australia will help Gambhir get his touch back, all he needs is a little time at the centre. The whole world is expecting Sachin to complete his centum here and what better place than the MCG and what better occasion than the Boxing Day Test.

I guess India has two big decisions to make in their selection of the final eleven. One of them is Rohit vs. Virat and the second is the choice of the third seamer, a tossup between Umesh, Mithun and Vinay. I think the 2nd dilemma is an easy one with Umesh clearly the leading choice. His performance against the Windies in the two tests has amply demonstrated his caliber. His ability to clean up the tail would come in handy and his extra yards of pace could make a lot of difference to the final outcome.

The question of Rohit and Virat is one for the ages. You can’t ask for two players more similar, matched in temperament, skills and all round abilities. One factor which differentiates them could be Rohit’s ability to play with the tail. His experience in getting India out of difficult situations will be useful in case the top order fails to click. He has also played in Australia before and his technique of playing short balls is better than that of Kohli’s, although both have a lot to learn in that area. If Sharma does get a chance to play, then it would be his maiden test. He also has a triple hundred in first class cricket, so he has the capability to construct a long innings. He is definitely Indian Cricket’s investment for the future, someone who has promised a lot but has always been on the threshold of greatness.

If you were to check both the teams Man to Man, India would probably win hands down. Clarke seems to be the only batsman in form but Ponting, Hussey and Watson are not people to take lightly. Bowling wise, Australia is definitely weakened with the absence of both Mitchell Johnson and Cummins. Johnson always had the ability to take wickets in groups something which Australia would sorely miss. James Pattinson would probably be the person who will support Siddle in the fast bowling department. He performed admirably against NZ, moving the ball both ways in helpful conditions. In the spinning department, I doubt if Lyon has the credentials to trouble the Indian Batsmen. He does give the ball a good tweak but turning it a long way won’t get him too many wickets. He has got to develop variations to sow doubts in the minds of the Indians.

Overall, you do get the feel that this could be India’s series to lose but you can never underestimate the Aussies. A good start by India at Melbourne would set the stage for a wonderful series. The key factor in the series would be India’s bowling which needs to take 20 wickets. We have the required firepower but planning and execution could be the difference between a win and loss. My prediction, India to win 2-1 and Sachin to get his elusive hundred at the Sydney Test.

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