An Australian fortress
Australia could not have chosen a more daunting venue for the first Test of a series: they have won 10 of their last 14 matches here, and drawn the other four. Their last defeat happened 15 years back, when a West Indian bowling attack comprising Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh crushed the Australians by nine wickets. In fact, of the four venues where India are playing Tests, Australia's win percent is highest at the Gabba (57.77, compared to 54.74 at Melbourne, 52.22 at Sydney and 49.18 at Adelaide).
If a 14-match unbeaten streak isn't demoralising enough, here's how India have fared in Tests at Brisbane - played four, lost four, including one by an innings and another by ten wickets. India came closest to victory in 1977-78, when they made a spirited chase of a fourth-innings target of 341 - led by Sunil Gavaskar's 117 - but fell short by an agonising 17 runs.
Australia tend to impose themselves early in a match most of the times, but it is particularly true at the Gabba: in the last eight Tests there, Australia average 463 in their first innings, while their opponents make 223 - that's an average first-innings lead of 240. Not surprisingly, Australia have won six of those eight matches, all of them by convincing margins (two by an innings, one by ten wickets and three by more than 100 runs). A small crumb of comfort for India: Australia have never crossed 400 against them here - the highest is 382 for 8 declared in 1947-48.
Captains have generally tended to insert the opposition after winning the toss - only twice in the last eight games has a captain elected to bat, and on both occasions Mark Taylor took that decision. It paid off spectacularly against Pakistan in 1995-96 - Australia blunted the Akram-Younis pace duo to score 463, before Shane Warne took over. He snared an amazing 7 for 23 to dismiss Pakistan for 97, and then returned to take four more in the second as Pakistan followed on. Warne finished with match figures of 11 for 77, his second consecutive ten-for at the Gabba: the previous year, he scalped 11 for 110 against England.
A less successful decision at the toss happened last year, when Nasser Hussain famously chose to field. Australia ended the first day on 364 for 2, and England's tentative attempts to mount some sort of a challenge on the Ashes was quashed right at the outset.
Among the Indian top order, Sachin Tendulkar is the only batsman to have played a Test here. He didn't have much success either, scoring just 16 and 7 in the first Test of the 1991-92 series. Time to settle scores?
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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