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They know that to regain the No. 1 Test ranking, they'll almost certainly need to beat England, a different proposition from a crumbling Indian outfit
January 15, 2012
There have been plenty of promising performances from Australia in this series. David Warner scored a 69-ball hundred. The captain, Michael Clarke, made an unbeaten triple-ton. Ricky Ponting broke his century drought in style. Ed Cowan has emerged as a solid opener. Ben Hilfenhaus has been reborn as a strike bowler. James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have all bowled well.
But arguably the most encouraging sign came after the innings victory at the WACA. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy had been won, continuing Clarke's record of not having lost a series as captain, but he was adamant that his men would keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. "We haven't achieved much at this stage," Clarke said.
He's right. Since Clarke took over as captain in April, Australia have won a Test series in Sri Lanka, drawn in South Africa, drawn with New Zealand at home, and beaten India. The comprehensive nature of their victories over India has been remarkable, but it cannot be ignored that their opponents have been in disarray.
Australia's goal under Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur is clear. They want to return Australia to the top of the Test rankings. It is a simple objective that will be anything but simple to achieve. It is also a task that, due to how far they have slipped down the ICC table, is unlikely to be possible until the 2013 Ashes. They rose one place by beating Sri Lanka but still sit fourth. Avoiding the snakes in their path and climbing every ladder won't be straightforward.
It is easy to get carried away with a handful of victories. But it's important to remember that this side was beaten by New Zealand in Hobart last month, and bowled out for 47 by South Africa in Cape Town in November. Clarke took those failures personally. He knows that complacence, even in the next Test in Adelaide, would carry the risk of undoing much of their good work.
The very best teams are insatiable and aim to crush their opponent at every opportunity. So far in this series, Australia have done that. Their rotating group of fast bowlers has worked together to suffocate India's experienced batting line-up, and bowled them out six times for an average total of 229.
Their batsman have demoralised India in the field. From the time Cowan went leg-before to Zaheer Khan in Sydney until the moment Cowan was bowled by Umesh Yadav in Perth, India took 1 for 836. The Australia batsmen displayed concentration and a determination to completely dismantle their opposition.
|It is easy to get carried away with a handful of victories, but it's important to remember that this side was beaten by New Zealand in Hobart last month, and bowled out for 47 by South Africa in Cape Town in November|
But there remains room for improvement. Shaun Marsh has scored just 14 of the 1601 runs Australia have racked up in the series. He needs runs in Adelaide, especially with the prospect of Shane Watson returning for the tour of the West Indies in April. A prolonged lean patch for Marsh would almost certainly make him the man squeezed out to accommodate Watson.
The vice-captain, Brad Haddin, must hear the rapturous applause every time men like Ponting and Warner walk out to bat and wonder where the Australian public's love has gone when he heads to the crease. His duck at the WACA continued his poor patch during a series in which he has been noted mainly for his batting failures and dropped catches. In a winning side, though, it is easy to ignore such disappointments.
Australia will win 4-0 or 3-0 - or in the event of a miraculous Indian turnaround, 3-1 - and head to the West Indies full of confidence. But they know how much work remains ahead in order to regain the No.1 ranking. To get there, they'll almost certainly need at some point to beat England, an altogether different proposition to a crumbling Indian outfit.
But the next Ashes series is a year and a half away, and the exciting squad that is developing under the watch of Clarke and Arthur has the feel of a group that can challenge England. Warner, Pattinson, Pat Cummins, a rejuvenated Hilfenhaus and Siddle - this is a side full of promise. Things can change quickly, but for now they appear to be a team on the way up.
If they do stay together and knock off England in 2013, Clarke can say his men have achieved something great. For now, they deserve to celebrate regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. But this time next week, their focus needs to be back on the job.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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