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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Down Under - who will shine for India?

India has their best chance to win their first-ever series in Australia, thanks to a combination of strong batting line-up and not-so experienced team from the home team. To win the series, the Indian batsmen no doubt will have to lead the way ahead on pitches that might suit the Aussie team. Placid, flat pitches will not be offer - this will only play to the Indian team's hands. The pitches will offer bounce and seam in no small measures so that the young bowling attack will enough to trouble the Indian heavy-weights.

For the Indians, who will take the wickets that matter? Let us look at the last five Indian tours Down Under and see who has shone through

  • 1985-86 series saw the Australian team in a rebuilding phase - probably very similar to what they are now. The new captain, Allan Border, took over the reins and this series was a hard-fought one. Only rain and the captain's stubbornness ensured that India left the shores without any win. Shivlal Yadav and Ravi Shastri were the leading wicket-takers in the series on both sides. Will Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha take clue from these performances? Kapil Dev chipped in with useful wickets in the series in a role that one expects Zaheer to perform now. One only prays that Zaheer does not break down once again 
  • By the time India toured in 1991-92, the Australian team was a formidable one while India were not so great themselves. Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar were the leading bowlers but the lack of a support seamer who could penetrate the bowling hurt the team (Srinath was early in his career and did not have the incisiveness early in the career to help the team's cause). Of course, the batsmen's lack of runs also contributed to the 4-0 rout.
  • Sachin Tendulkar captained the team during the 1999-2000 tour that was disastrous on many counts. A white-wash in the three-test series ensured that the Indian team was in shambles after the tour. The new-ball lineup consisting of Srinath, Agarkar and Venkatesh Prasad could not strike against the powerful Oz batting. A lone spinner (Anil Kumble in his early days) could not help Sachin's team make any impact.
  • 2004-2005 was one series that India, under Sourav Ganguly and John Wright, performed to their reputation. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh returned with the top 2 spots in the wicket-taking list. Zaheer played the four test matches but could not take as many wickets that one had expected him to. His partners - Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan - could not make much headway in the matches they played. Murali Karthik was another spinner who returned with his head held high (another pointer to Ojha's possible success)
  • In the season of 2007-2008, India played a tempestuous series marred by on-field events on the ground. Ishant Sharma made an impact in the test match against Ricky Ponting though he did not have many wickets to show. It was the old war-horse, Anil Kumble, who picked up wickets by the bushel. Zaheer had matured on his second tour but broke down after playing one test. RP Singh and Irfan Pathan played the supporting roles to Kumble and Harbhajan in a series that was won by Australia.
If Zaheer can endure the series without any injury, the bowling attack with Ashwin and Ishant/Umesh/Mithun will prove more than a handful for the young Aussies. 

Will the Indian sun shine Down Under? Hopefully, yes. 
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