Adelaide: Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar is set to be rested from India`s next ODI tri-series match against Australia on Sunday but if past record is to go by, the move could end up hurting the beleaguered team.
In the last 22 years, India has won only five matches against the hosts in Australia and Tendulkar has always featured prominently in all those victories.
In 1991-92, during his visit to these shores, India beat Australia by a staggering margin of 107 at WACA, Perth.
Tendulkar was then the second top scorer with 36 off 65 balls while Kris Srikkanth, presently the chief selector, led the way with 60 off 60 balls.
It took India a good dozen years to beat Australia again after being hammered for 11 straight matches. In 2003-04, India beat Australia by 19 runs at Gabba.
Tendulkar this time weighed in with 86 runs off 95 balls with eight fours. And India actually topped 300 runs on the scoreboard.
India`s next three wins came all in one golden summer of 2007-08 series. It began in Melbourne where India, chasing a relatively modest total of 159, won with five wickets to spare. Tendulkar top scored with 44 from 54 balls with three fours.
India then won two straight finals to claim their first-ever one-day series in Australia.
In the first finals in Sydney, Tendulkar slammed 117 off 120 balls with 10 fours to allow India to canter home with six wickets to spare. The target of 240 was achieved with 25 balls to spare.
Two days later, the two teams clashed again in the second finals in Adelaide. India set the pace early with 258 runs on the board. Tendulkar once again pounded off 91 runs off 121 balls with seven fours.
The stats above have two pointers -- one, Tendulkar still is key to India`s chances against Australia. Two, without one or the other opener firing successfully, India has never been able to pin down Australia.
It also brings the two other openers -- Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir -- under the scanner.
Sehwag, over three tours, has played 10 matches against Australia. His best is no better than 37 and in all, he has made 180 runs from these 10 matches at an average of 18.00.
Gambhir, in contrast, offers much more promise. He has 230 runs from seven matches at an average of 32.86 against the hosts.
He has also slammed a century against Australia, a stroke-filled 113 at Sydney during the last tour of 2007-08.
Between Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwary, there is an experience of no more than 10 matches played against the hosts in Australia.
Sharma, who scored a half century in the first finals of the last triangular in 2008, has played seven matches against Australia. The rest have played a match each with only 37 runs between them.
The remaining league matches against Australia, with or without the rotation policy, thus offer a huge challenge to the Indian batters.
Their remaining three league fixtures against Australia are at Adelaide (February 12), Brisbane (February 19) and Sydney (February 26).
If the rotation policy works, as is the plan of the team management, then Tendulkar would miss out in Adelaide and play in Brisbane and Sydney.
But it`s also time that a bat other than Tendulkar’s wins India a game against Australia Down Under.
Admittedly, his shoes are too large to fill but every other batsman worth his salt needs to give it a try.