A HISTORICAL PREAMBLE
To say Australia and India have a colourful past is without a doubt true. Case in point is the second ever tied test played out in Chennai in 1986. But it is in the last ten years that the Australia-India rivalry has turned into one of the fiercest.
The turning point has to have been the 2001 Kolkata test, arguably one of the greatest ever tests. India were dismissed cheaply in their first innings and were forced to follow on. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted an entire day of cricket against the greatest bowling attack of the era – Warne, McGrath and Gillespie – and not only saved the Test but delivered a defeat that would change Steve Waugh’s and Australia’s policy about enforcing the follow on for good.
When India came to Australia in 2007/8, one of the most intensely entertaining series would pursue with the terms “Bollyline” and “monkeygate” emerging as folklore which cricket fans would remember forever. Moments after Australia won the 2nd Test in Sydney, with minutes to spare and with the help of some dodgy umpiring decisions, all hell broke loose with India threatening to pull out of the series and the ICC having to step in to avoid a serious diplomatic disaster. Needless to say, the rest of the series was pretty heated.
The two protagonists – Harbajhan Singh and Andrew Symonds – are sadly no longer around and this series will take on a very different shape with Australia the fallen greats coming up against India dethroned by England in their last crunch series. Despite the different shape, you can’t help but think the spikiness and intensity will not have waned.
With India being labelled by many as ‘favourites’ despite never having won a Test series in 64 years competing down under, bodes well for a thrilling contest.
Watch The Sledge Look Back Over the Past Decade…
AUSTRALIA TALKING POINTS
Australia have announced their starting line-up (Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Clarke (c), Ponting, Hussey, Haddin, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon, and hilfenhaus) and the signs are encouraging from a selection point of view. Jonathan Howcroft wrote a cracking piece on how Ed Cowan is a beacon for sensible Australian selection. And you’d find it hard to disagree Cowan, Warner and Marsh (the latter two fresh from huge T20 totals) is a stodgier trio than the one that face New Zealand of Warner, Hughes and Khawaja.
The spotlight will come onto the more senior members of the side and the lower order. Ponting hasn’t scored a century for an eternity, Michael Hussey’s recent two series have been the worst ever in the baggy green, and Brad Haddin cannot stop farting out of his head at the most opportune moments.
There are question marks about the balance of this Australian side. With Shane Watson still not fit, Pat Cummins sidelined for a month, and Dan Christian not picked, can Australia get 20 wickets with a 4 man bowling attack? Pattinson has been a huge weapon and Peter Siddle seems to be producing the goods rather than just unquestionable effort and aggression. So there is hope there for Australia.
Nathan Lyon has been a revelation since stepping up from the groundsman duties and he will relish the opportunity to take on some of the best players of spin the game has ever seen.
Watch The Sledge Preview the Australian Team…
INDIA TALKING POINTS
Will Sachin finally register his 100th hundred? Will Laxman feast on the Aussie bowlers yet again? Is Sehwag going to fire? India have got the finest batting line-up of the modern era and are definitely contenders for the greatest ever top order in the history of the game. Unlike against England, they have come early and are battle ready.
With Sehwag and Gambhir so destructive at the top of the order, Rahul Dravid silently eclipsing Sachin for the label of greatest test bat and Laxman averaging 56 against the Australia, the batting is clearly India’s strength and they surely hold the edge in this department.
Whilst Ohja and Ashwin have been tearing through batting line-ups in the sub-continent for fun; Australia is a whole new ball game and is widely known as an off-spinner’s graveyard. Sydney apart, for the balance of their side they will only be able to play one spinner and it looks like Ashwin is going to get the nod.
So much will depend on the Indian quicks and it is heart-breaking that Praveen Kumar is out of this series. India will have to rely on the likes of Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan to take them 20 wickets. Their fitness is the elephant in the room. Zaheer in particular was so far away from match fitness against England that he was barely a shadow of his former self.
Indian fans can draw hope from the form and emergence of Umesh Yadav. He is testament that quicks with genuine pace can come out of India. The Aussies won’t have seen much of him either so he could be their trump card.
It’s going to be spicy. I, for one, cannot wait for the games to begin come Boxing Day.
Watch The Sledge Preview the Indian Team…
What are the major talking points going into this series for you?
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