Can the inviting Adelaide Oval revive India?
The Adelaide Oval is by a long distance the friendliest venue for visiting sides to Australia. The MCG can be intimidating with that crowd, the SCG is always a big occasion and can be a bit of a distraction, the WACA is harsh on even the slightest error with bat or with ball, but the Adelaide Oval is part charming, part benign.
It's not just the pitch, it's the general air around. Nobody stops you from entering the ground here, or walking around. You can walk into the Bradman Museum, no questions asked. You can watch rare footage, read stuff, bat like he did with a golf ball hit against a water tank. The replica tank, the stump, and the ball are all there. It is friendly for the spectators too. The many grass banks, the stands with canopies for cover, St Peter's Cathedral in the background, and the absence of big stands make for nice viewing.
Then there is the pitch, almost benevolent if you are coming straight from the WACA. Bat the first hour of the Test out, and then you can pitch a tent here. There are the short square boundaries, and the near desert heat to beat the bowlers down. All in all, just the tease you don't need when you are 3-0 down. A ground made to make you feel why the hell you didn't start the series here.
Apart from that thought, there will be much more running through Indian minds as they try to avoid a second straight overseas whitewash. How to get a score of 400 with the match still alive, is one of them. It seems they have been undone by a simple plan. It's so blatant it's subtle. Just don't give them boundaries, bowl a tight line, extract some movement, and the batting line-up with tens of thousands of runs between them will edge the ball.
"I think they are bowling in good areas," Virender Sehwag, the stand-in captain, said of the batting struggles over the last seven overseas Tests. "They are not giving easy balls to hit boundaries and they are playing with your patience, you know, so I think this is the best bowling attack I've ever seen. Against Australia, generally when I played in the past, you know, I'd get couple of balls in early overs to hit the boundary, but [against] this attack, I hardly get a ball to be hit, so I think it's one of the best bowling attacks."
Some others already have their minds back in India. "We'll see how they fare in India, on our pitches," they seem to be thinking. It is natural for these thoughts to cross your mind towards the end of a long unsuccessful tour, but not only are these comments poorly timed, the idea that they might be dominating their minds is not a sign of a side that is desperate to come back and do well here.
Sehwag suggested the same, but with more tact. "I think if you look at it other way round, whoever comes to India they also lose Test matches," he said. "Australia came to India and they lost two series, two-nil and two-nil. Yes, I felt bad because we've done well overseas in the last ten years, and suddenly in the last two tours we are not doing well so we are not living up to expectations. But we are working hard, we are trying hard, we are doing everything we can do, and we are practising hard. Sometimes these things are not in your control and you just go and try to give your best and sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn't. This is a part of life, part of the game."
There are others who will be going through a completely different set of emotions. Those who had worked hard for ten years to give India the reputation of a fighting team away from home, too, will be wondering where it all went wrong. Sachin Tendulkar, in particular, and Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have walked out to big ovations at every ground. For sure this will be the last time in Australia for Dravid and Laxman. For Laxman, this might be the last time ever. Tendulkar you never know. Nobody will be telling Dravid and Laxman the endearing Aussie farewell, "Seeyalayter".
Outside the XI, Rohit Sharma will be asking himself if he is so bad that he can't get into a side that has lost seven away Tests on the bounce. MS Dhoni, the captain banned for slow over-rates, will be wondering where those times have gone when he could do no wrong.
India have only ever clean-swept two Test series longer than two matches in the history of their cricket. Now they are fighting to avoid a second whitewash within months of each other, that too as the No. 1 and No. 2 side in the world respectively. Even at a venue best suited to their batsmen, avoiding this whitewash will be as big a mental and emotional challenge as it will be technical.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo