Australia in India 2013-14 October 10, 2013

Nothing irrelevant about it

The rivalry between India and Australia has acquired a considerable standing of its own. Australia could use this series to face their fears against spin

Relevance. Context. Meaning. As administrators continue to fill every small remaining opening in the calendar with more and more cricket, these words have come to be increasingly used by followers of the game. Even as the game tries to win new fans mostly through its chosen route, Twenty20, there is a growing section of existing ones who try to determine their interest in a series by searching for some relevance, context or meaning in it. Often, they are justified in their method, for some contests have long ago been done to death.

For instance, what context does the zillionth India-Sri Lanka bilateral ODI series have? Did the last-but-zillionth one have any meaning? Are such games between the two countries in danger of losing all relevance?

In the case of rivalries such as India-Pakistan or the Ashes, the history or tradition attached to the contest is so overpowering, that invariably there is no need to hunt for meaning. The rivalry between India and Australia, who are set to take each other on over seven ODIs and a T20, is nowhere close to India-Pakistan or the Ashes but over time has acquired a considerable standing of its own.

Little more than a decade ago, it wasn't too much of a rivalry, before the epic series in the Indian summer of 2001 ignited it. India-Australia match-ups suddenly acquired a certain needle, a certain spark. A reference point had been established, and both teams, one unquestionably great, one unquestionably competent, built on it. Gradually, the greatness evaporated, the competence waxed and waned. Still, India and Australia gave us some memorable games, such as the heart-stopping Mohali Test of 2010 and the pulsating quarter-final of the 2011 World Cup.

For all their recent struggles in Test matches, Australia's ODI record in India is still top-class. They won the World Cup here in 1987, and the Champions Trophy in 2006. They took bilateral series in 2007 and 2009 by identical 4-2 margins. When India routed them 4-0 in home Tests earlier this year, many celebrated it as a reprisal for the 0-4 humiliation Australia had subjected the visitors to on their own territory in 2011-12. While that attitude might not be in the interests of Indian cricket, the point is about the continued existence of the rivalry, and the way the country's fans have treated such games - television ratings for the 2009 bilateral ODI series comfortably exceeded those for the 2009 Champions Trophy. It is from this background that the ensuing series of seven ODIs to be inaugurated by a solitary T20 must be viewed.

There have been suggestions that this trip to India will only serve to destroy the confidence of Australia batsmen suspect against spin just before the return Ashes series. Granted that it is an Ashes year, and a double-Ashes one at that, such a conclusion appears to be alarmist. It is widely accepted that the current set of Australia batsmen aren't good players of slow bowling but how does avoiding your weakness contribute towards overcoming it, considering that must be the goal? Facing Indian spinners on benign one-day surfaces might not be a bad workout. In Tests, the proposition gets difficult with Indian pitches aiding spin much more. Phillip Hughes won't have forgotten his travails in India earlier this year, and if he can derive any kind of confidence from the current trip, it will only be an improvement. That can only help Australia, whose ODI outfit isn't exactly settled with the 2015 World Cup not too far away.

"What we have lost is a lot of experience," said George Bailey, leading the side in the absence of the unfit Michael Clarke. "We are trying to rebuild that. Guys are getting used to being in this side, being used to the scrutiny and pressure of international cricket, and to the different roles within the Australian side that they are playing."

An important such "different role" will be the mentoring one expected to be played by Shane Watson, who brings a wealth of limited-overs and subcontinent experience to this side, but is also someone who has been accused of hurting the cause of team unity.

For their part, India have kept renovating their one-day outfit, adding younger players in place of a few veterans, of whom only Yuvraj Singh has forced his way back for this series. Following an unexpected Champions Trophy win, the selectors experimented further in Zimbabwe. Two of the young fast bowlers who went to the African country, Jaydev Unadkat and Mohammed Shami, have found spots in the squad against Australia.

The indications have been promising, but how much India have progressed as an ODI unit will become clearer in this extended duel against an opponent who has regularly quelled them in their own conditions in the past. Just under a year ago, India lost to Pakistan, the only other team to have defeated them at home in a bilateral ODI series in the past decade. In that sense, Australia are fitting adversaries, and there is little irrelevance to this contest, which could see the No 1 ODI ranking change hands.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Scott on October 14, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    @landl47, you should check your own facts, both Ferguson and Voges are far from ordinary in ODIs - and we've no need to try out uncapped 16 year olds to appease a few out there who "can't see any talented yongsters coming through". On top of which, we've brought Maddinson along for this tour. If you're referring to these guys not being suitable for test match cricket and are ordinary, need only look at your own stocks when you can't even fill a 6th batsman of any quality in your side, mate.

  • suresh kumar on October 13, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    @2nd_slip "I get the feeling you lads like limited overs cricket because it hides the flaws of your flat track batsmen techniques as well as the mediocre bowling performances displayed by your bowling unit" Your comments also implies that EVEN ON FLAT TRACK YOUR (SEAM TRACK BATSMEN) BATSMEN HAS NO TECHNIQUE TO PLAY. That's why I think your batsman dont like to turning and low tracks, which exposes their lack of technique. Anyhow, need some technique to play atleast one kind track! Isn't it?

  • John on October 13, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    @Nampally: before commenting, please check your facts. M. Hussey is retired. Pattinson and Starc are injured. Hodge is retired AND injured. It's really a waste of time talking about persuading people to play who are not available for selection.

  • Peter on October 13, 2013, 0:35 GMT

    @landl47. Got to agree with you. This is nowhere near our WC squad, only 2 players in serious Ashes contention, even the future of ODI cricket are being kept at home to hone their FC mindset. They will still be competitive, but the timing of the series is, I believe, the biggest gripe people have.

  • Ashok on October 13, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    The series of matches between India & Australia were always well contested & generated intense interest. But the Aussies do not seem to have their best team here. Guys like M.Smith, M.Hussey & M.Clarke are all missing from the batting line up. I think even Hodge, Warner & Katisch are absent. With this limited talent, the Aussies rely heavily on Maxwell, Finch, Watson, Haddin for their batting. In bowling Pattinson, Lyons, Starc do not appear to have been selected. Lack of interest is understandable when some of best Cricketers are missing. I would not term this as irrelevant series - because India still get to practice & perfect their team. As you can see from various input of Fans in this column, many have already written off the Aussies. Had the Aussies sent their best side (even excluding injuries), I am sure there would have been a lot of interest. Even now persuade M.Hussey, Hodge, Smith, Pattinson & Lyons to join, to make it a worthy & close series. That is my POV.

  • John on October 12, 2013, 18:40 GMT

    The series might have some relevance for India as they prepare for the 2015 World Cup, but it's hard to see what relevance it has for Australia. This isn't going to be their World Cup squad (at least I hope for Australia's sake it isn't) and it comes at a time when the focus is on the forthcoming Ashes series. If it turns out that players don't find form in the Ashes tests because they haven't played enough FC cricket in Australia, or worse still if anyone is injured in this series, then not only will it have been irrelevant but positively damaging to the Australian side.

    Australia might have taken the opportunity to look at some as yet uncapped players, but they haven't done that, preferring instead to bring over people like Voges and Ferguson who are ordinary players that have been around for a long time.

    I'm hoping for some entertaining cricket, but in terms of relevance I'll be surprised if anything of significance arises out of these games.

  • Blessing on October 12, 2013, 15:13 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster and Indian fans alike- I get the feeling you lads like limited overs cricket because it hides the flaws of your flat track batsmen techniques as well as the mediocre bowling performances displayed by your bowling unit when not playing on rank turners.

  • Scott on October 12, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    @KapilsDe1983, we should only play T20s, in fact, we should just play super over cricket and could complete a world cup in less than a day. Assuming 1983 is your birth year, all of the 20yo's with the attention spans of goldfish would be there and not a ground in the world could hold as many people as would love to be there for such a magnificent spectacle of the best form of cricket ever to be played! And the money that would come in would be outrageous and be able to fund further technology on bigger bats, then players could hit it further, so we can build bigger stadiums, get more people in to watch games - and more money! We could have 8 WCs per year! Then domestic competitions, and franchises - who definitely arent all about money, they'd want to ensure that crickets future is safe by investing at the grass roots level - could run all year and be bigger than the EPL! And the skill level it would take to last 6 deliveries - they'd all be better than sachin and Bradman put together

  • Scott on October 12, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    @Witty365ca, I'm not sure what you're going on about! India, nor SA, caused Australian cricket dominance to end - it was retirements of great players which levelled us out. No idea how we were 'hit so hard' by India? India are a very good ODI team and have been for quite some time, but India emerging as the better and stronger team - that's still yet to happen! Don't get too excited that we lost 4-0 in India when you lost 4-0 in Australia. India's greatest problem has been touring, and I can't see that ceasing any time soon. Although a lot of Ind's younger guys are better at playing pace and bounce, they're still susceptible and almost untested off home soil. Aus haven't had many good results of late (scoreline wise in tests), but have competed well and pushed both Eng and SA and have constantly maintained a decent ODI record.

  • Daryl on October 12, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    Test matches are more important, and I will be watching/have watched all of the back to back series. Sorry if this offends people but test match cricket is far more entertaining. In my opinion.

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