Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Honest Build up for the Tour Down Under

At the start of 2011 every Indian cricket fan must have marked his calendar for three important events involving India. The World Cup, India’s Tour of England and India’s Tour of Australia positioned precisely at the start, middle and end of the year. Much to the fan’s excitement the year commenced cracker as India clinched the World Cup. The joy knew no bounds. His expectation rose sky high as India begin the Tour of England with the tag of World Champion. On the contrary the Tour turned complete disaster as India returned empty hands and wiped any hangover of World Cup joy. Now, the time has arrived for the final litmus test of the year. Having witnessed highs & lows in a short span of time, the fan is totally perplexed to set an expectation meter on the Tour Down Under.

The Tours of Australia had never been easy, if not cruel. Few careers ended but most occasions remained breeding ground for new talents on both sides. As for the results from 21st century, Tendulkar’s were crucified 3-0 in 1999-00, Ganguly’s drew 1-1 in 2003-04 and Kumble’s lost 2-1 in 2007-08. But the whole world pitied Kumble’s boys for receiving a raw deal from umpires. No one can forget the Sydney fiasco. No matter what the results been thus far, in all these years, India has only improved as a team and put spirited performance at the Kangaroo nation. 

It is now time to build up one of the most anticipated tours of the year from the common cricket fans perspective. The Test matches in the past few years around the world are producing results instead of dull draw. This is may be encouraging sign for Test Cricket, unfortunately it has also exposed the present generation batsmen vulnerability to play long innings. Except England, players from no other country expressed appetite to play sessions. With regards to this Tour, on paper the Indian batsman appear more temperamental over their Aussie counterparts. Again Indian batsmen are known for “Lions Home, Mice Abroad“. As for the Australians are concerned they are tasting success elsewhere except home. After the Ashes disaster at home, Australia won the series at Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and drew in South Africa. After some overwhelming overseas tours, the Kangaroos again fumbled badly only to draw the series against a low profile Kiwis. This should be soothing message for the Indians.

The Match up
The Aussies are having issues with their batsmen while Indians are down playing their bowling woes. In brief, Ponting, Hussey and Haddin forms are nothing short of awful, the opening combination looks unsettled, new no.3 hasn’t come to terms yet, finally the news of Watson, Marsh, Paine, Cummins and Johnson nursing injuries are adding salt to wounds. The injury worries can give the lifeline to Ponting and for the World to witness the legend one last time, if not anymore. 

I’m anticipating Aussies to start the Boxing Day Test with the following side.
Warner, Watson, Khwaja, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Haddin, Siddle, Lyon, Pattinson, Harris/Starc.

Despite the issues mentioned above this Aussie lineup is still a side to beat. 

As far as the Indians are concerned Ishant Sharma has made up a strong case to return home even before the commencement of the series. And Zaheer is most likely to feature only from the the First Test if not the only Test before returning home on the same grounds. That leaves Yadav, Mithun, Vinay Kumar and Ashwin/Ojha to do all the labor in both Tests and Warm Ups. I know you will all surely buy that the above quartet can only bring life to the out of form batsmen or revive careers of senior statesmen in the Aussie side. If there is still merit to hard work & faith Irfan Pathan will make a comeback, if not rewrite the fortune of Indian bowling unit.

As far as Indian batting is concerned, Rohit Sharma has displayed better application ahead of Virat Kohli and deserves to make his debut on Boxing Day. Also Gambir is available fully fit for a full tour outside sub continent in a long time. This should be a litmus test for him as well, considering Rahane has made rapid strides in the past few months.

It will be a huge surprise, if Dhoni does not field the following XI on Boxing Day.
Sehwag, Gambir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Yadav, Mithun.

However, I prefer to see (in the assumption Irfan Pathan to cover injured Ishant Sharma)
Sehwag, Rahane, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Rohit Sharma, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Irfan, Yadav. 

Aussies have a good chance of being distracted by the Big Bash which India can use it to advantage and register the first series victory in Australian soil. In reality, the chances of Australia winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1 looms large.

Bottom line: Praying for the evil. “Big Bash prevails to bring doomsday for Aussie Cricket!!!“ Wish to see this statement in headlines.

Cricket Lover

PS: I’ve deliberately avoided building up the 50th/100th Ton.

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