December 23, 2011

Can India seize their chance to win in Australia?

Much depends on whether their lead bowlers can wrest an advantage for the batsmen to build on
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On the fingers that wrap themselves around a new ball, or indeed on the ankles, shins, hamstrings and other allied muscles of the owners of those fingers, could well reside India's chances in Australia. The signals aren't encouraging so far. Zaheer Khan has been jogging in, sitting in, jogging in, sitting in, resting his ankle as much as he tests it. Meanwhile Ishant Sharma worries about whether his ankle has been strapped well enough. You are what you repeatedly do, the sage said, and India will have liked the two bowlers to have steamed in for at least two spells before the first Test. Unless, of course, this is part of an elaborate charade, in which case it must go down as among the better-kept secrets of our time.

Zaheer's and Ishant's readiness, and consequently their rhythm, needs to be looked at in the light of the travails facing a once-proud batting nation. Australia are uncertain - you can discern that in the selection of a 29-year-old with an inconsistent run-making pattern behind him. More so, you can feel it in the absence of dismissive remarks about the opposition in the build-up. In earlier times, by now Australian spokesmen would have decided the outcome of the series and buried the tourists. There is a reason they haven't this time. Australia don't often get bowled out for around 100, and never for less than half that. And therefore, if Ishant and Zaheer are on top of their game, the pitches are unlikely to be too lively; the boot has been on the other foot too often for that. There are a bolter and a rookie at the top, an uncertain legend and an out-of-form champion to follow, and little clarity about who bats before the wicketkeeper and the bowlers make their way in.

If, however, they expect a polite Indian new-ball offering, the tracks could well be garnished with additional spice, for it is with the new ball that Australia most fancy their chances against an Indian batting order that has extraordinary pedigree but a little trouble starting. And so I believe that among the many contests to savour, it is Australia's new ball versus India's top order that could be the most riveting. It is a bit like a game of chess, where if your rooks are strong the queen can win you a game. So too, if India's new ball is strong, the batsmen could win the series.

For the first time India have the opportunity to play to the fear in the opposition camp. When Matthew Hayden was marching out with Justin Langer trotting alongside, and Ponting was padded up at No. 3, the dressing room didn't have to sit on the edge of the seat. No. 5 didn't have to worry about whether his kit was all ready for battle. There would have been excitement, but confidence would have been the overpowering fragrance in the room. Now you don't quite know when No. 4 could be walking out; and No. 6 could be watching intently before lunch. A weak Indian attack will allow the Australian dressing room to breathe freely and think of aggression, which is their natural instinct and most potent weapon.

And so, just as Zaheer and Ishant will be critical to India, so too will Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Remember, both have endured injury and rehabilitation in 2011. Sehwag averages under 30 and Gambhir has probably missed more than he has played. In front of them lie inexperience and skill. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon are good cricketers without intimidating numbers against their name. They can bowl but do not yet bear comparison to Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill, let alone McGrath and Warne. It is an opportunity for India but one they must exercise with caution: 60 for 4 on the first morning is a decisive psychological swing.

If Gambhir and Sehwag see off the new ball, and the sun starts to beat down, Australia could have long days in the field. For Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman know the art of building innings better than most. But if India's bowlers offer balls that go straight at medium-pace, they could just provide the early shot in the arm Australia's batsmen need.

India hold the high ground at the start of the series. If they can dominate the first Test, they can win a series in Australia for the first time. But much will depend on those ankles!

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hhillbumper on December 24, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    full blodded wallop.india similar to Carribean pace quartet- That is an ironic statement isn't it.Windies had some of the greatest ever bowlers and you have Ishant and Zaheer Khan.You can't compare the attacks.The Windies pace quartet would have shown the current Indian line up for what they are.Flat track bullies. Tendulkar would not have got near 100 centuries.That was when bowlers could bowl and bouncers would have found the line up out.

  • 4test90 on December 24, 2011, 20:46 GMT

    20 years ago when I was 20 myself I went to the MCG and was amazed as I watched India bat on Boxing Day that there was a talented bloke out there 2 years younger than me. Well, now I am 40, I am going again tomorrow - that same bloke is still two years younger than me, and he is still very much good enough. Welcome back Sachin !!!

  • sfali16 on December 24, 2011, 18:11 GMT

    @DYSP: what are you talking about "Sachin has not scored a hundred at Perth". You're forgetting his breakthrough innings - 114 at Perth in 1992: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf-hfPpN9TE

  • SirViv1973 on December 24, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    Any India fans on here thinking the team's management are bluffing regarding the fitness of ZK and IS need to think again. Although DF did some very good things for English cricket, he has a history of selecting players who aren't fit. In particular I remember 02/03 ashes series when a list of players too long to name were selected and all had to go home and be replaced.

  • ankeshh on December 24, 2011, 15:13 GMT

    Well said....................................mr bhogle!!!

  • screamingeagle on December 24, 2011, 14:42 GMT

    This goes out to Randyoz, did you read Boycott's suggestion of 4 day tests? I think he had Australia in mind when he said that.Big talk from a team which is consistent....in making PIN code scores in different parts of the world, even in home grounds. Stop making silly remarks....

  • on December 24, 2011, 13:42 GMT

    @RandyOZ RP Singh was INDIA"S BEST BOWLER in Aus in 2007-08 and was dropped after 2 tests 4 months later. The real dead rubber specialist is Kallis whose all tons vs Aus came in dead rubbers (except one maybe). THAT IS A FACT.

  • gopakumar85 on December 24, 2011, 10:49 GMT

    India should play 3 fasters zak,ishant and yadav. but if zak or ishan is not fit then probably we need to take vinay kumar who probabaly might be more effecitve considering the swinging conditions that dishes out in mcg.it wont be a bad idea to have him in the mix if ishant or zak is not fit.number 6 position is becoming a nightmare for 2 boys rohit and virat they both a gifted crickets with all round ability they score runs can roll the arm over and even save runs and take those crucial catches but with the current form may be it will tilt in virats favour but rohit is highly talented probaly has more range of shots to combat the aussies in these pitches as he has played in the past but it will still be a great test and great experience to someone like virat would like to see how he deals with in big grounds like mcg.

  • Chris_P on December 24, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    Pretty good analysis Meety. I have seen all pitches (except Perth) the last year. Hobart was unlike anything I have ever seen in this country before. Adelaide will be a bit of a road, Perth, hopefully will be back to the old days (nothing like last tour), Melbourne is mystery, but a little swing should be on offer and Sydney will favour the bowlers who put in. Not really much for the spinners though.

  • Johnny_129 on December 24, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    Zak, Ishant & Yadav make a decent (not great) pace attack - although the fitness of the first two and the inexperience of the third pace bowler is a concern. Hopefully, India will not need to revert to their reserve pace bowlers because the selection of Mithun and Vinay, ahead of a fit and in form again Pathan, is inexplicable! Of the Indian spinners, Ashwin would be the most likely to succeed in Aus pitches - although the absence of Harbhajan will let Ponting breathe a sigh of relief! Id the unthinkable happens and India do win this series, I don't think the selectors will deserve any credit whatsoever!!

  • hhillbumper on December 24, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    full blodded wallop.india similar to Carribean pace quartet- That is an ironic statement isn't it.Windies had some of the greatest ever bowlers and you have Ishant and Zaheer Khan.You can't compare the attacks.The Windies pace quartet would have shown the current Indian line up for what they are.Flat track bullies. Tendulkar would not have got near 100 centuries.That was when bowlers could bowl and bouncers would have found the line up out.

  • 4test90 on December 24, 2011, 20:46 GMT

    20 years ago when I was 20 myself I went to the MCG and was amazed as I watched India bat on Boxing Day that there was a talented bloke out there 2 years younger than me. Well, now I am 40, I am going again tomorrow - that same bloke is still two years younger than me, and he is still very much good enough. Welcome back Sachin !!!

  • sfali16 on December 24, 2011, 18:11 GMT

    @DYSP: what are you talking about "Sachin has not scored a hundred at Perth". You're forgetting his breakthrough innings - 114 at Perth in 1992: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf-hfPpN9TE

  • SirViv1973 on December 24, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    Any India fans on here thinking the team's management are bluffing regarding the fitness of ZK and IS need to think again. Although DF did some very good things for English cricket, he has a history of selecting players who aren't fit. In particular I remember 02/03 ashes series when a list of players too long to name were selected and all had to go home and be replaced.

  • ankeshh on December 24, 2011, 15:13 GMT

    Well said....................................mr bhogle!!!

  • screamingeagle on December 24, 2011, 14:42 GMT

    This goes out to Randyoz, did you read Boycott's suggestion of 4 day tests? I think he had Australia in mind when he said that.Big talk from a team which is consistent....in making PIN code scores in different parts of the world, even in home grounds. Stop making silly remarks....

  • on December 24, 2011, 13:42 GMT

    @RandyOZ RP Singh was INDIA"S BEST BOWLER in Aus in 2007-08 and was dropped after 2 tests 4 months later. The real dead rubber specialist is Kallis whose all tons vs Aus came in dead rubbers (except one maybe). THAT IS A FACT.

  • gopakumar85 on December 24, 2011, 10:49 GMT

    India should play 3 fasters zak,ishant and yadav. but if zak or ishan is not fit then probably we need to take vinay kumar who probabaly might be more effecitve considering the swinging conditions that dishes out in mcg.it wont be a bad idea to have him in the mix if ishant or zak is not fit.number 6 position is becoming a nightmare for 2 boys rohit and virat they both a gifted crickets with all round ability they score runs can roll the arm over and even save runs and take those crucial catches but with the current form may be it will tilt in virats favour but rohit is highly talented probaly has more range of shots to combat the aussies in these pitches as he has played in the past but it will still be a great test and great experience to someone like virat would like to see how he deals with in big grounds like mcg.

  • Chris_P on December 24, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    Pretty good analysis Meety. I have seen all pitches (except Perth) the last year. Hobart was unlike anything I have ever seen in this country before. Adelaide will be a bit of a road, Perth, hopefully will be back to the old days (nothing like last tour), Melbourne is mystery, but a little swing should be on offer and Sydney will favour the bowlers who put in. Not really much for the spinners though.

  • Johnny_129 on December 24, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    Zak, Ishant & Yadav make a decent (not great) pace attack - although the fitness of the first two and the inexperience of the third pace bowler is a concern. Hopefully, India will not need to revert to their reserve pace bowlers because the selection of Mithun and Vinay, ahead of a fit and in form again Pathan, is inexplicable! Of the Indian spinners, Ashwin would be the most likely to succeed in Aus pitches - although the absence of Harbhajan will let Ponting breathe a sigh of relief! Id the unthinkable happens and India do win this series, I don't think the selectors will deserve any credit whatsoever!!

  • Alexk400 on December 24, 2011, 9:32 GMT

    Zaheer and Ishant decided how india win. Gambhir and sehwag will decide how badly india draw or lose. Batting won't decide india win. It is bowling. Band aid bowlers may break down in middle of match. if that happens , it will be repeat of england , i would fire duncan fletcher for not planning things ahead. For me he does nothing , he is just making moola. he said nothing in the media , i am not sure he even make any decision. Contrary to what people think kirsten was also not a good coach but he was lucky he had great captain in dhoni. So what is the difference? With duncan all bowlers are injured , with kirsten incharge bowlers were more healthy. Even in india , india did n't win comfortably against awful west indies. Because bowlers were not that impressive. India really need a number 1 bowler who can replace zaheer and take initial few wickets. To do that we need speed/swing and tall well built bowler. I do mot have confidence in Umesh yadav or varun arun last a series.

  • DYSP on December 24, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Good Luck for Indian Team.

  • DYSP on December 24, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    Wishing Indian Team for hard tour of Australia. Good Luck for Sachin for his 100 ton. I will be more happy if he score his 100th ton on Perth Ground. on which he has not scored hundred which is fastest pitch in the world.

  • dunger.bob on December 24, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    @Meety : Spot on with the pitches. You can add to that a general effort to bring back proper Australian test pitches that each have their own character. We want Sydney to spin like a top and Perth to scare the ... stuff out of batsmen. That is how it always was pre limited overs cricket. I think Brisbane is our best pitch. Over 5 days it nearly always produces brilliant cricket where every facet of the game has its time in the sun.

    I look at it this way. We may be the brunt of everyone's jokes at the moment (and who can blame them after 15 years under our heel), but the best way for us to crawl our way back up the hill is to play our cricket on our distinct, maybe even unique, pitches. We'll get pasted a fair bit early because on those sort of wickets the best players usually win. I think its the only way to produce tough, adaptable players who can cope with any sort of pitch the country can throw at them. Players like that, by my definition, have good techniques.

  • ssenthil on December 24, 2011, 7:25 GMT

    Lot of uncertainties and lots of IF and BUT... I feel Zak is definitely fit and he played 2 FC game in India to prove his fitness and I hope he can stand Fit until Perth Test. I wish Ishant is fully fit and bowl like he did in WI series in WI, where he got lot of bounce in offering. I wish all the best for Indian bowlers

  • harshthakor on December 24, 2011, 7:17 GMT

    India's best chance to win.Man to man India is superior but ultimately it boils down to temperament ,form and adaptability.India came close to winning their last 2 series on Australian soil against better teams.With that form we will surely triumph.However looking at recent performances India lacks the killer instinct and the last series in England was a debacle.The bouncy wickets may not suit the younger batsman but this team has plenty of experience.In the batting I feel Sehwag,Dravid and Laxman will play the most crucial role.Going by form a drawn rubber is the most likely result but both teams have a good chance of winning it if you observe the Aussie resurgence at times in recent games.

  • RandyOZ on December 24, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    I just read RP Singh's name. Haha that gave me a good laugh. The Indian team of dead rubber specialists have no chance, I doubt they will even win a session. England crushed them, now its our turn to have fun.

  • amarnath79 on December 24, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    They will miss Bhajji. Ashwin and Ojha will be exposed on this trip.

  • zenboomerang on December 24, 2011, 0:40 GMT

    @Nampally... I have more faith in Zaheer than Ishant... He had corrective surgery that fixed his problem while Ishant has avoided his... Still I hope both are 100%... The pitch will suit Yadav as long as he uses the conditions... Pattinson will be on his home ground with 75,000 fans - the only heat will be in the balls he bowls... Siddle is at home as well & was the standout bowler in the losing side against England @MCG... We have a different team this time around - so hoping for a good match from both teams...

  • on December 23, 2011, 23:23 GMT

    The main Diffrence between ZAK and ISHANT is, Zak take out the Top Order and Ishant the Lower Order.

  • Rajags on December 23, 2011, 22:36 GMT

    India must play fully fit bowlers - don't want to repeat what happened in England. I also want to point out India's shortcoming in bowling the tail out. Time and time again, the opposition tail has frustrated the Indian team and taken the game away. New ball bowlers need to come into play at the end of the innings as well. Therein lies the need for having fully fit bowlers.

  • Nampally on December 23, 2011, 22:18 GMT

    Harsha, Congratulations for your faith in ZAK & Ishant's ankles,especially the latter's which I think as height of Optimism! ZAK is working his way back after a surgery to repair his ankle with a gradual & steady build up over the past 2 months. However Ishant is just going the opposite way - opting out a chance for surgery after the England tour.So putting faith at least in Ishant is like betting on a lame horse to win. I would rather put my bet on ankles of Yadev & Vinay. On the other hand Gambhir & Sehwag are both fit and need to apply themselves to the task ahead responsibly with grit & determination to give India a solid start.I concur with your thoughts that the FAB 3 know how to build a long innings to make the raw Aussie pacers ineffective.Pattinson, Starc (both 21) & Lyons (23) have a combined Test experience of <10 Tests.If the heat is ON, can they stay in the kitchen- remains to be proven.Good bowling will & has collapsed the Australian batting. Can India Provide it to win?

  • Vilander on December 23, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    both teams have weakness, Aus on the way up, Ind on the way down with impending retirements. good contest it should be.hope ishant and zak last the series.

  • on December 23, 2011, 21:02 GMT

    @zico123, if every thing you hope happened, the score line should read 4-0, instead of 2-0. Good to see some respect for the poor Australian side but if they play to their potential, I am guessing a score line of 3-1 either way.

  • iluvcricinfo on December 23, 2011, 20:56 GMT

    Indian bowlers always perform better whenever people write them off..Mark my word..

  • zico123 on December 23, 2011, 20:38 GMT

    i hope Zaheer and Ishant are fully fit, i want Zaheer, Ishant and Yadav to reap aprat Australian top order and win the series 2-0. and i want Sehwag, Gambhir, Rahul, Sachin, Laxman, Dhoni n Kohli to bat long and bat Australia ouf the game

  • Full-Blooded-Wallop on December 23, 2011, 19:59 GMT

    This Indian pace battery reminds of nostalgic caribbean quartet. yadav,ishant,zaheer, if only there was aaron. Exciting times ahead for Indian fans..just wait and watch the emergence of India as the pace firepower....

  • yogi.s on December 23, 2011, 19:41 GMT

    All said and done..given the uncertainties both teams are having among their ranks..india with regards to fitness of their fast bowlers and form of their openers and australia with their well documented batting woes I think the first test is going to be very crucial as harsha says here. I know that is what they say at the beginning of every series but especially in this series I think the team that can take that early initiative will create more uncertainty in the opposing ranks and can run away with the series. Its going to be a fascinating watch, I hope the cricket lives up to the build up.

  • on December 23, 2011, 19:28 GMT

    Awwww. What an article! It's just a series preview, but Harsha made it so poetic

  • SaravananIsTheBest on December 23, 2011, 19:07 GMT

    @maddy20, about Ishant, will get to know when the first test starts.

  • Rahulbose on December 23, 2011, 19:02 GMT

    Going by the Nzl series.This series could be a low scoring affair. I am looking forward to watching Ojha and Ashwin play in Aus. Too often tourists forget their strength, as much as Aussies are vulnerable to swing they are worse against good spinners. As for India I suspect their batting will struggle to put up big scores, the middle order will have to tackle the new ball more often. And the tail will be longer and contribute less as Dhoni's batting outside India is not that great.

  • Raginggbull on December 23, 2011, 18:56 GMT

    Boxing about to start. Aus Bowling attack is medicore against the Indian stalwarts. Confidence & intimidating others is the need of the hour. But much will depend on those ankles!

  • maddy20 on December 23, 2011, 17:21 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas Ishant is a liability! I am surprised why you called him one of our main bowlers. Should he breakdown again then Irfan Pathan can be drafted in his place, who is not only a far more effective bowler but also an able lower order bat. I would love to see the attack comprise Aswin, Zaheer, Umesh and Irfan.

  • on December 23, 2011, 16:54 GMT

    The presence of Zaheer and Ishant will help our rookie Umesh Yadav as he will be under less pressure and will have on-field guidance from senior Zaheer. The combined battery of these three could prove a real handful.

  • iluvcricinfo on December 23, 2011, 16:51 GMT

    I don't believe in all this talk about bowlers/batsmen needs to shine talk..It all comes down to one innings..If they bat well in their first innings in fist test, they always play better afterwards irrespective of any kind of opposition..So My guess is Sehwag's first innings in the first test is as crucial as winning the series..

  • on December 23, 2011, 16:41 GMT

    The best part,the last line.'much will depend on those ankles'

  • criclytical on December 23, 2011, 15:58 GMT

    Actually, apart from the actual quality of cricket played, lot depends on the umpiring decisions. On both of the last two tours, India could have snatched the series, it's just because of poor umpiring decisions that saved Aussies time and again... this time, I hope nobody saves Aussies.

  • Naresh28 on December 23, 2011, 15:42 GMT

    @indian fans - The fast bowlers we have in India are Zaheer, Ishant, Yadev, Aaron, Sreesanth, Nehra, Irfan, RP Singh. Another who I liked but faded was L Balaji. The new one video I have seen is ATUL SHARMA (a very exciting prospect) The SHARMA name will soon be very popular in the Indian team. The biggest disappointment is Sreesanth - how I wish this lad had climbed upwards. He is a deadly bowler who should have been selected also for Oz tour. On the surface it looks quite good pool - but why are we not nurturing, contracting etc this pool.

  • on December 23, 2011, 15:14 GMT

    Well said, Harsha. In this series, for India, the "turning point", interestingly is in the beginning itself, that is on the ankles and shoulders of the openers --Zak & Ishant while bowling and Sehwag & Gambhir, while batting.

  • frodo86 on December 23, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    Agree with you Harsha....however, they need not only their new ball bowleers to strike, but their back-up bowlers too...and i expect they will be Ashwin and Umesh. Although i think it will be really good to have a 5th bowler, i hope neither Vinay nor Mithun is picked!..They will be cannon fodder to the Aus batsmen and allow out-of-form Ponting and Hussey to regain form confidence and runs!

  • aahahaa on December 23, 2011, 14:07 GMT

    Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid will play out of their skin as they will know this is their best and last chance to beat the Aussies in their own den. Dhoni should step up his batting performance a bit and come in @ 6, and play 5 bowlers. That will give us the best chance to bowl the Aussies out.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 23, 2011, 13:49 GMT

    @Kritika Prasad, true. I'm trying my best to be positive. Just now I read something that VVS had to say about Zaheer and Ishant. IF he is telling the truth, then I give it 1-0 to 2-0 in India's favour. Otherwise, I'm sorry to say that it's going to be 2-0 to 3-0 in Australia's favour. I may sound negative but I'm trying to be in touch with reality IF our two main bowlers are unfit.

  • bluebillion on December 23, 2011, 13:32 GMT

    Having seen the batsmen's performance in the last two away tours - WI and England - I believe that they are as much the key as the bowlers' fitness.

    PS - I know MSD is the captain but can we please send Sehwag to the toss???

  • agamgoyal on December 23, 2011, 13:07 GMT

    @Satish619chandar - nice observation that ...between cook and gambhir ...if gambhir ican make as many runs as cook did ..we are surely gonna win 4-0 ...lol Btw i always believe Cook is an overrated player and Gautam is far better player than Cook

  • agamgoyal on December 23, 2011, 12:58 GMT

    There is a lot of talk about Zaheer and Ishant being fit or not ...and being the mainstay of Indian bowling . No doubt they have to perform but the most important bowler for India would be Umesh Yadav...He has got an outstanding out swinger and a good in coming delivery of the seam ...i think if bowls well and Ashwin supports him well ...both of them can take India too a series win .. Likewise for Australia ...the onus is upon Pattinson(and if fit Cummins) and Lyon .. This is new comers series for sure ... Yadav has to be at his attacking best ...and not as a support bowler to Zaheer and Ishant ..and the Dhoni sholud make him take the new ball with Zaheer ...All the best India :)

  • Naresh28 on December 23, 2011, 12:52 GMT

    As DHONI keeps saying to everyone play good cricket and then results will take care of themselves. Fans its no use delving into any stats iolder than a year. To the Indian team that is history - look forward not back.History can only help in deciding the lineup and team to take for each game. India s poorly endowed with pace bowlers which is one of the ingredients to win in Oz. Their spinners and batsman can setup a game or two - but it is uphill. Australia have fairly balanced resources and start as favorites with home advantage. Having said that there is always the odd hiccup - NZ beating Oz recently. Lets enjoy and appreciate two great teams battle it out - one will emerge the victor and then its no use condemning the other as useless

  • pr3m on December 23, 2011, 12:34 GMT

    See the problem is what Harsha said. 60/4. If you're talking about Viru and Gauti being susceptible, admit that barring Dravid, the rest of the middle order can't take the heat either.

    If Zaheer can't get through the entire Test series, he should be history. If he hasn't actually tested himself out in the games he's played so far, why is he bothering coming back? I don't understand why you'd bother putting yourself through all that just to let yourself and everybody down with your fitness.

  • indpomoz2011 on December 23, 2011, 12:30 GMT

    Well, India might as well win against this fourth-ranked and ill-fated Australian team, only to be canonised by the Indian media and the public-at-large as the greatest ever Indian Playing XI to have walked on this planet, and Dhoni "the greatest captain" India has ever produced blah blah blah.....But the reality is this: any result less than 3-0 for India will be factually inferior to the drawn series India had in 2003 with the likes of Steve Waugh, Ponting, Gilly, Gillespie and Lee in their team.

  • hhillbumper on December 23, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    my bet is Aus take the series by two tests.Guess India might get lucky with one.They have no fighting spirit and if Aus can get them down then they can grind them into it.There is no fighting spirit and they are okay when everything goes their way but soon as things go against them they crumble.If Aus were any good they would have them 4-0.

  • on December 23, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    In Australia, I think you need pace to succeed, because the ball doesn't swing much. I reckon Umesh Yadav could be the key bowler for India. What a pity Pat Cummins is injured. He looks like a real prospect.

  • vigneshmrp on December 23, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    Harsha bhai article after a long time?

  • PiyushD on December 23, 2011, 11:15 GMT

    Her we miss a pace allrounder and the balance of the Team, one reason why India is so good in subcontinent is they do not feel the absence of 5th bowler on these wickets as spinner do most of the bowling and India has enough options at batsmen who can spin, a certain Irfan Pathan in form would have helped, I do not see anyone else in the domestic setup who gives this confidence though there might be better bowlers than him, if Ashwin can show consistancy with bat then probably we can play with 5 bowlers, purist miht not agree but if Gambhir fails in first Test I would prefer the XI for 2nd Test as Sehwag,Rohit, Dravid,Sachin,VVS,Kohli,Dhoni,Ashwin,Zak,Ishant and Vinay/Mithun or Ojha

  • on December 23, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    Unless it is a tactic (I dont see much point even in it, in a 4-match series) it is puzzling why India is so cagey about the fitness of Zak and Ishant. Indai shd plan to win by the sheer force of its abilities and not lean upon minor tactics of surprising the opposition with who will be in playing on B-Day.

  • spiritwithin on December 23, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    as an indian i desperately wants india to win but the truth is that our bowling resources r too thin and our batting despite looking very good on paper is still susceptible in fast and bouncy pitches..my take-Aus winning 2-0

  • bipulkumar on December 23, 2011, 10:33 GMT

    Injured or not, I don't think Ishant Sharma has done any good for ages to be in the playing XI. Ishant, Mithun and Vinay are equally hopeless. If there is any injury concern, he must not play a match. Being 1 bowler short in the middle of a match puts enormous workload on others and make others injury prone as well.

  • satish619chandar on December 23, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    Was looking into the highlights of last couple of tours in Star cricket.. Absolute sunny days they were.. If the weather was as sunny as it was, the advantage will be for the batsmen irrespective of the green pitch.. Apart from MCG, the weather looks good in all other venues.. If Sehwag and Gambhir can click atleast in 3 innings of the 8, we can make a match out of it.. Gambhir is almost entering the tour the same way Cook entered last Ashes.. Lets wait and watch...

  • satish619chandar on December 23, 2011, 10:14 GMT

    I dont know how may people are seeing it.. But Dinda has outbowled Irfan clearly in the domestic match between Baroda and Bengal.. And, what happened to the rumour that Dada declared that Dinda will fly as cover to Ishant?

  • on December 23, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Why do team India have to depend on injury prone Zaheer and Ishant for an important series ? Why is there no plan B, Umesh,Mithun and Vinay too can be a handful on helpful tracks. Just pull a leaf out of the hosts book, they too are going in with fresh faces and not lamenting the absense of Harris, Bollinger and Johnson. If the Indian batting can out do their counterparts, then anything is possible with or withour Zaheer/Ishant.

  • on December 23, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    @Dravid Gravitas. Why so negative? Cheers mate! Be optimistic and the battle is half won! Be postive! Woohoo Go India! Chak de! \m/ All the best Team India! Smash 'em! Cricinfo please publish.!

  • on December 23, 2011, 9:10 GMT

    This tour doesnt look too promising from India. The only batsman in the Indian line up I am confident about is Dravid.

    Our bowlers are capable of bringing the most out of form batsmen into roaring form and I expect Ponting to hit big hundreds in this series.

  • brittop on December 23, 2011, 9:08 GMT

    How can India fail to win. Their supporters keep telling us English fans how beating Aus in Aus doesn't mean anything cos Aus are rubbish!

  • CricketMaan on December 23, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    if Ishant and Zaheer are on top of their game, If, however, they expect a polite Indian new-ball offering, If Gambhir and Sehwag see off the new ball if India's bowlers offer balls that go straight, If they can dominate the first Test...A lot of IFs in that article...that is in short 'India Down Under'..Good luck India

  • Anshuman_M on December 23, 2011, 8:32 GMT

    Brilliant Harsha, as always!

  • on December 23, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    India doing the same mistake they did in England. If the players are half fit they shudnt have been on the flight to australia. As much as I want to see india win in aus, i think two bowlers who hodl the key with doubtful fitness right from the start of the tour is not going to help them win. they should have got in at least4 fully fit fast bowlers on this tour.

  • jmcilhinney on December 23, 2011, 7:37 GMT

    @mlkt, if you fell that you need to see confrontations to make the game entertaining then maybe cricket isn't the game for you. An Australian fan recently posted that India were lucky to catch Australia with so many injuries, but I'd say that it's about even on that front. Given that India's weaker suit is bowling, it's tough for them to have two bowlers out and another two in doubt. I'm sure that Praveen Kumar would have had fun against Australia, given their performance against against NZ and his against England.

  • abdubaba on December 23, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    why is India worrying about their bowling department? I don't get it. They've got Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, they're two genuinely fast bowlers. So what's the worry? Also, whatever happened with Atul Sharma?

  • zenboomerang on December 23, 2011, 7:15 GMT

    @Harsha Bhogle... What is wrong with a 29y.o.? ... Inconsistent?... lol... he has been in good form for 2 years - which is more than can be said of a few Indian batsmen... Our top 3 are all in good form... With 75,000 fans at the MCG I don't think the Aussie cricketers will be thinking of anything but winning... All things considered, it will be the batsmen that handle the bowlers & conditions the best that will make or break the 1st Test...

  • Prasant_NSW on December 23, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Though tabloids are concentrating on Zak and Ishant, it is Umesh and Ashwin who is gonna rattle Australian wickets.. I like the effort from media to shift concentration to ZAK and Ishant and making youngsters feel secure, relieved and confident before they deliver and show Aus batsmen the pavilion end so that they don't miss their team for long :D - Prasant UNSW

  • Prasant_NSW on December 23, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Though tabloids are concentrating on Zak and Ishant, it is Umesh and Ashwin who is gonna rattle Australian wickets.. I like the effort from media to shift concentration to ZAK and Ishant and making youngsters feel secure, relieved and confident before they deliver and show Aus batsmen the pavilion end so that they don't miss their team for long :D - Prasant UNSW

  • sweetspot on December 23, 2011, 6:39 GMT

    Every possibility for this series has been exhausted, from head to ankle. The soles remain. Let's have some fun. Hope it's not one sided at the end of so much speculation.

  • on December 23, 2011, 6:36 GMT

    Yes, the key word in the article and around the series is √ľncertainty". Will Zaheer be fit and be able to bowl forty overs? Will Ishant show us what he did in 2007-8 when he hatssled an in form Ponting? Will Sachin not worry unduly about his hundredth hundred? Will Sehawag send the new young pacers to the cleaners? Will Gambhir battle the uncertainties in his mind and start scoring again? Will Lakshman score a first innings century and not salvage losing causes? Will Dravid once again prove that he is the most consistent batsman on show on either side? Will Ponting rise from the ashes? Will Warner score a century before lunch? So many questions and so much tension around boxing day and the three tests thereafter. One thing is certain, this is our greatest chance ever. Let us not get consumed in the moment and just play sensibly and ground Australia down under as we did at home, the last time around. This is an even weaker Australian side. India can do it, but will they? Sridhar

  • gotu902 on December 23, 2011, 6:25 GMT

    my prediction is that series drawn by 1-1.... it vl b the best series for dhoni by bat.... lets see what happen der!!!!!!!!!!!!! :P :) :P

  • JustOUT on December 23, 2011, 6:13 GMT

    I still remember Mr. Venkatesh Prasad saying "This is the best bowling attack" IN THE WORLD after winning in Perth in 08. I laughed that time and laughing more now. Almost all the bowlers bowled in that match are vanished now. Lets see what is the next one-liner jokes in this series. "ZAHEER IS FULLY FIT".. hahahahaha

  • Samdanh on December 23, 2011, 6:02 GMT

    It will be Aus bowling Vs India batting. Aus having had the habit of batting collapses once / twice every series of late, I expect India to win 2-1. I am an Aus fan. But looking at the batting quality of India, I could not foresee differently

  • on December 23, 2011, 5:48 GMT

    go aussies u can ruin the indians..........good luck team australia

  • Tommy82 on December 23, 2011, 5:46 GMT

    Really nice article by Harsha! I wonder why is Irfan Pathan being given the cold shoulder by the selectors. Mithun, Vinay Kumar and even Ashok Dinda (who has been no where in the plans) are being given chances. Given the performance from Pathan in the last ODI, it was well worth to give him a try as he would have given a different dimension to the team. He can bat, he's swinging the bowl in to the right hander and he has experience in the Australian conditions. Considering the injury woes of Zaheer, Pathan would have lent some experience to the relatively young bowling attack.

  • Percy_Fender on December 23, 2011, 5:45 GMT

    In the past, it had come to be believed that Australia had the ability to bat well even if the pitches had some juice in them. What gets overlooked is that in all those Tests where they did well on sporting wickets, they had also the benefit of the toss on their side. So after the poor opposition teams had to slug it out for a few runs, the Haydens and Langers Gilchrists and Waughs would come in and bat in a manner of asking everyone,what the fuss was all about.It is only in recent times that when there have been sporting wickets, Australia's toss luck has deserted them causing them to be bundled for embarassingly poor scores.I have always believed that the Captain's luck is more important than anything else in cricket as a General's is in war. A lucky captain is better to have than a great thinker running the team. Ishant and Zaheer should be alright I think. And with Yadav and Ashwin in the mix, the Indians have a fair chance to beat Australia if Dhoni's luck turns for the better.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 23, 2011, 5:43 GMT

    We need a strong batting line up in Australia. Sehwag will be his reckless self, Gambhir is still edgy, Dravid will average 60, Sachin will be nervy till his 100C, Laxman, will play only in the 3rd innings, Kohli is perfecting his scowl whenever he gets out, Dhoni is still figuring out the technique to bat in Tests. That leaves 4 bowlers. Ashwin and Ojha should be in automatically. No-brainer. Yadav is the only other bowler who is fit. The other bowling spot is a toss up between Zaheer and Ishant. Both unfit in my book if they can't bowl 20+ overs a day! Who is going to take the 20 wickets? Ashwin and Ojha can account for 10/12, but can Umesh and Zaheer account for the other 8/10 in EVERY test? No. I've never understood why Indian bowlers can't consistently bowl at 135kph+ AND learn to swing both ways. And NO, the Indian pitches aren't the excuse for this glaring lack of BASIC skill!

  • himanshu.team on December 23, 2011, 5:34 GMT

    I do not buy the argument that India are playing bluff with Zaheer and Ishant. If they are charging and swinging in the nets Aussies would take note. If they don't, they are not that great to produce a magical speel without any proper preparation. So there is something wrong with both. In which case What are they doing in Australia? I still am baffled at the exclusion of Irfan Pathan. After Praveen, he is our best swing bowler at present. Aussies have shown, and quite consistently I should say, that their batting line-up is really suceptible to good swing bowling. The only other thing looking different from the England series is the batting. With a regular opening combo, we should not expect Sachin and Laxman to fail again. They are too good for that, and even Dhoni and Rohit/Kohli should fare better too. So it boils down to how India bowls. Right now they have just 2 good bowlers, Ashwin and Umesh. We need other 2 bowlers to come good. We can only hope that they do.

  • on December 23, 2011, 5:34 GMT

    Fitness is more important than reputation.The situation is ripe to explore the unknown.Does anybody remember WI tour under Dravid,where Three rookies VRV Singh,Sreeshant and Munaf patel lead India to historic series victory..? At best Zaheer can be used in short bursts,whereas Ishanth should have more match practice before playing any test match.

  • on December 23, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    All the banter before a test series is missing now. Remember McGrath, he always had something to say about Sachin, or some one before a series. But look at Dravid, he is saying that the name of Ponting instills fear. I fDravid cannot think about ways to provoke, demoralize any of the australians is fine, but to praise an Australian batsmen, and especially in these terms, will definitely will help India's bowlers.

    Dravid was in the same boat as Ponting before the West Indies tour series came along, and having scored all those runs against the hapless west indies he feels comfortable enough to talk about others. But to talk in these manner, to say that Ponting's name instills fear is unforgivable, and shows utter lack of competitiveness of the man. Every one praised Sachin, and everyone else praised Dravid, but no one, said their names instill fear before a series.

  • Ali_J_01 on December 23, 2011, 5:19 GMT

    this series would be a mismatch. india cant win with this bowling attack

  • on December 23, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    Isn't it sad and frustrating that even after what happened in England, we are again starting a tough tour without being sure whether Zaheer is match-fit? Plus the rest of the bowling attack doesn't inspire much confidence either. I think only Umesh Yadav and Ashwin might last the entire series with decent performances. Hope the batsmen make up for the bowlers but they sure as hell would have a lot to do.

  • on December 23, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    At this point India will be repeating the same mistake in Australia if they rely on zaheer and ishant. both are going to get clobbered or injured worse and upset the morale of the team. better we go with the other bowlers and consider getting some backups for them as well

  • on December 23, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    I have some other feeling.I might be wrong. Fletcher is a great tactician.I feel it is a great paln by him to give a feeling to the Aussies that ishant and zaheer are not 100 % fit and one of them might not trun up for MCG. Considering this oz will ask for a batting wicket which is will be advantage India. Might be wrong just a thought!

  • mlkt on December 23, 2011, 4:55 GMT

    india should have taken either bhajji or sresanth on the tour.....atleast they make the series entertaining and lively with their confrontations.....india-aus series will be boring without bhajji, sresanth, symonds......no matter who wins the entertainment will be missing!!!!!!!!

  • on December 23, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    u mean tooo say Indian bowling a weak point...? Wat a certain Umesh Yadav he can b the best prospect for us in DownUnder *U NEVER KNW*

  • wizman on December 23, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    If India miss their chance to beat Aus in Aus this time, the great Indian batsmen of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman will never taste it.

    And Aus look as vulnerable as they ever have - still too inconsistent, with both batting and bowling a lottery as to who turns up on the day (or even session!)

    If India play smart and conservative, and like they do in India (bat first, bat long, bat once), they can definitely win the series.

  • Akshay_mehta1 on December 23, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    only 7 words - A..W..E..S..O..M..E (awesome )

  • on December 23, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    Harsha- I think India should seriously consider playing 5 bowlers. If you go back in time to 1986 series, which i think one of the most dominated series in Australia for india, we played with 5 bowlers (3 seam and 2 spin). I believe it would give enough options for taking Australian wickets.

  • on December 23, 2011, 4:22 GMT

    Totally agree with Harsha. If Zaheer and Ishant bowl well, then there is only one team which looks the probable winner, India. Because, if India bat anywhere to their potential, this Aussie attack will wilt quickly. That is why it is a must for Australia to have 5 bowlers ie play Christian.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 23, 2011, 4:10 GMT

    What a dream? Come back after the series and watch this reply from me.

  • IndiaNeedsBowlers on December 23, 2011, 3:59 GMT

    The last line sums it up - much will depend on those ankles. Which makes me think that the selection panel needs to wake up. After the poor english summer, one major factor for the loss there was poor fitness. And here we are again in an Aussie summer, same year with the same mistake almost certainly to be repeated. We have a Zaheer Khan, who is our bowling spearhead with an uncertainity of whether he can bowl out one day, leave alone, one innings (although with The Aussie batting it may be smaller than a day) and one match. His past record shows that he hasn't lasted one full Aussie summer, and is certainly not match fit. Then we have Ishant Sharma who most certainly is not 100% fit. And then we have 3 rookie fast bowlers - 2 haven't even made their debut. I just cannot understand the thinking of selectors - why not Irfan Pathan, he has experience in Australia, is in form and has been playing Ranji so is surely fit. A POORLY SELECTED BOWLING ATTACK DEPENDANT ON IFS.

  • Meety on December 23, 2011, 3:31 GMT

    Good article, however, I don't like reference to Oz making pitches to either advantage themselves or disadvantage their foe. Oz pitches are generally dictated by conditions or in some situations the life cycle of the pitch. When India won in Perth, the WACA pitch was very young & not bedded down, no advantage to Oz! The pitch in Hobart was about as Green as ever seen in Oz, similar to NZ conditions, again no advantage to Oz. My predictions for the pitch is that the SCG will be spicy, there has been a concerted effort to get the firey pitches of old back at the WACA. Unsure how the G will turn out, & expect a typical Adelaide Oval, great for batting over 3 or 4 days - a nightmare on Day 5. The MCG could be anythhing & is the pitch most at the whims of the curator, as I think the weather hasn't been great, it could be Green, but probably a bit on the slow side.

  • JustOUT on December 23, 2011, 3:30 GMT

    Its pathetic to read Ishant being considered as frontline bowler. He was/is never impressed with his bowling(except that spell against ponting in last series) in past 3-4 yrs. This also shows, what is India's fast bowling reserves. Everyone knows he is half-fit, then why can't just send him back to India. I am sure, he will be back for new year to celebrate with his family. most overrated indian bowler.

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  • JustOUT on December 23, 2011, 3:30 GMT

    Its pathetic to read Ishant being considered as frontline bowler. He was/is never impressed with his bowling(except that spell against ponting in last series) in past 3-4 yrs. This also shows, what is India's fast bowling reserves. Everyone knows he is half-fit, then why can't just send him back to India. I am sure, he will be back for new year to celebrate with his family. most overrated indian bowler.

  • Meety on December 23, 2011, 3:31 GMT

    Good article, however, I don't like reference to Oz making pitches to either advantage themselves or disadvantage their foe. Oz pitches are generally dictated by conditions or in some situations the life cycle of the pitch. When India won in Perth, the WACA pitch was very young & not bedded down, no advantage to Oz! The pitch in Hobart was about as Green as ever seen in Oz, similar to NZ conditions, again no advantage to Oz. My predictions for the pitch is that the SCG will be spicy, there has been a concerted effort to get the firey pitches of old back at the WACA. Unsure how the G will turn out, & expect a typical Adelaide Oval, great for batting over 3 or 4 days - a nightmare on Day 5. The MCG could be anythhing & is the pitch most at the whims of the curator, as I think the weather hasn't been great, it could be Green, but probably a bit on the slow side.

  • IndiaNeedsBowlers on December 23, 2011, 3:59 GMT

    The last line sums it up - much will depend on those ankles. Which makes me think that the selection panel needs to wake up. After the poor english summer, one major factor for the loss there was poor fitness. And here we are again in an Aussie summer, same year with the same mistake almost certainly to be repeated. We have a Zaheer Khan, who is our bowling spearhead with an uncertainity of whether he can bowl out one day, leave alone, one innings (although with The Aussie batting it may be smaller than a day) and one match. His past record shows that he hasn't lasted one full Aussie summer, and is certainly not match fit. Then we have Ishant Sharma who most certainly is not 100% fit. And then we have 3 rookie fast bowlers - 2 haven't even made their debut. I just cannot understand the thinking of selectors - why not Irfan Pathan, he has experience in Australia, is in form and has been playing Ranji so is surely fit. A POORLY SELECTED BOWLING ATTACK DEPENDANT ON IFS.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 23, 2011, 4:10 GMT

    What a dream? Come back after the series and watch this reply from me.

  • on December 23, 2011, 4:22 GMT

    Totally agree with Harsha. If Zaheer and Ishant bowl well, then there is only one team which looks the probable winner, India. Because, if India bat anywhere to their potential, this Aussie attack will wilt quickly. That is why it is a must for Australia to have 5 bowlers ie play Christian.

  • on December 23, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    Harsha- I think India should seriously consider playing 5 bowlers. If you go back in time to 1986 series, which i think one of the most dominated series in Australia for india, we played with 5 bowlers (3 seam and 2 spin). I believe it would give enough options for taking Australian wickets.

  • Akshay_mehta1 on December 23, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    only 7 words - A..W..E..S..O..M..E (awesome )

  • wizman on December 23, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    If India miss their chance to beat Aus in Aus this time, the great Indian batsmen of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman will never taste it.

    And Aus look as vulnerable as they ever have - still too inconsistent, with both batting and bowling a lottery as to who turns up on the day (or even session!)

    If India play smart and conservative, and like they do in India (bat first, bat long, bat once), they can definitely win the series.

  • on December 23, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    u mean tooo say Indian bowling a weak point...? Wat a certain Umesh Yadav he can b the best prospect for us in DownUnder *U NEVER KNW*

  • mlkt on December 23, 2011, 4:55 GMT

    india should have taken either bhajji or sresanth on the tour.....atleast they make the series entertaining and lively with their confrontations.....india-aus series will be boring without bhajji, sresanth, symonds......no matter who wins the entertainment will be missing!!!!!!!!