Zeenews Sports Bureau
Melbourne: The last time Sachin Tendulkar toured Australia in 2007-08, the crowd gave the little master a standing ovation every time he marched towards the ground to bat or walked back towards the pavilion after enthralling them with a superlative display of batting prowess. The reason was two-fold. First, the obvious stature of the Mumbaikar and second the growing feeling that it might be the last time that they would witness arguably the greatest batsman of his generation taking guard on their soil.
Fast forward to 2011 and the genius is back. A lot has changed since then. In the ensuing period the two teams have witnessed changes in their fortunes that saw one falling from the perch and the other climbing towards the summit. However, at present both the teams are somewhat fragile in their own sense. While the Australian batting looks shaky, Indian bowling hinges on a precarious note. While the former's predicament has much to do with form and experience, the latter’s about fitness.
India has perhaps, the best chance to achieve its first ever Test series victory Down Under this time even if it depends on Australia’s wobbly batting to realize it. There are a lot of hurdles that India must overcome in order to make this outing a memorable one for the big three who might be on their last overseas tour as India won’t play any series abroad in the next two years or so.
The most visible thorn in their path is fitness. Both their frontline bowlers are battling or overcoming injuries. Zaheer Khan has been out of the Indian squad due to his inability to keep himself away from injuries that he keeps on picking every now and then. He also has a record of not completing an Australian tour-ever!
However, Zaheer’s eagerness to perform and his reputation with the new and old ball can be one of the features of the series.
Ishant Sharma announced his arrival on the big stage on the tour of Australia in 2007-08 when he troubled Australian batsman Ricky Ponting on numerous occasions that led commentators to compare him to Glenn McGrath and in him they saw traits of a great in the making. However, at this point his troubled ankle is a greater concern than his form or bowling.
For Australia, the transition period has thrown quite a number of challenges. In addition to their search to replace the likes of McGrath and Warne in the bowling department, it is their batting that has caused most of the heartburns. Their last series against New Zealand ended in a 1-1 draw and the previous one against the Proteas was a stern reminder of how shaky their batting line could be.
The result of the upcoming series against India would be a deciding factor as to where Australian cricket is headed towards. Greats like Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are struggling hard to recapture their prime form and their failure to do so might make it difficult for them to survive at the international stage anymore.
Boxing Day Test
It all boils down to the same old picture: Indian batsmen Vs Opposition bowlers.
Australians would be relying on their pacers to deliver the goods and in the absence of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and young James Pattinson along with spinner Nathan Lyon will look to run through the towering Indian batting lineup.
Even though they have a pretty inexperienced bowling attack: Pattinson (2Tests), Siddle (27 Tests), Hilfenhaus (17 Tests) and Lyon (7 Tests), the bright side is the young crop of fast bowlers has shown both promise and intent.
Easier said than done, India would be hoping for the same as Melbourne’s pitch might offer bounce and weather conditions swing for the pacers. For the team batting first, the trick would be to see off the new ball in the morning session and when the ball gets blunted, the middle order can exploit the conditions to their advantage.
Indian captain MS Dhoni would want to wash away the memories of his team’s last overseas tour and achieve a milestone that no other Indian captain has ever been able to do before.
Keeping in view the weaknesses of each side in perspective, the Test series is going to make an interesting watch both for the spectators and the selectors.