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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Aussies are here...

There has been no talks about a revenge series or a whitewash like the one India faced Down Under. Why? The English test series has ensured that expectations from the Indian team is reduced to the extent that they probably don't start the series as favourites! While I would have agreed with that status earlier, the retirement of Michael Hussey before this series makes the competition more equal.

One cannot compare the English team with the Australian side simply because of the experience that the former had at their disposal. Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen were superb in the test matches against India which were instrumental in their win. Michael Clarke has to find one more batsman who can do a similar job in the test matches - will it be Shane Watson or David Warner? What happens in such situations is that there is a virtually unknown player who rises to the fore and makes a name for himself. I am betting on Usman Khwaja to do it this time - let us see.

The preparation that the Australian team has been putting has been noteworthy - arriving 10 days early and staying in Chennai to ensure that they adjust to the heat and humidity is a marvellous piece of planning. Compare this to the schedule that the BCCI comes up with. Though the Aussies slumped against little-known off-spinner from the Board Presidents XI team, the practice they received must have been invaluable.

On the Indian front, Dhoni will need to play a bigger role in this series to stop further decline. MSD will not have Gambhir in his squad after a long while - Murali Vijay will be my favourite to play the first test, especially on his home soil. Shikhar Dhawan's technique is suspect against fast bowling and this must be on the minds of selectors also.

The middle-order will have Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara in their roles that they have been occupying for the last few series. Will this test series be Sachin's last one? Will Virat Kohli regain his form? One of Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja will play the first test and knowing Dhoni's quest for players with multi-skills, he will once again opt for Jadeja to play at No. 6. Dhoni might also opt to come up at No.6 and then have the troika of Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha play together.

Harbhajan's exploits against Australia (especially at home) is well-known and thus Dhoni will try to play that card once again. The combined batting of Ashwin and Harbhajan will be better than what Jadeja can provide and thus it does not look like a bad decision at all. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda are the pacers in the side and unless Ishant's ankle gives him a big issue, it will be Dinda who will sit out of the playing eleven.

Overall, the series seems to be interesting between two teams who are equal on paper but the Indians might be slightly ahead because of home conditions. Will their team members grab the opportunity to show that they can emulate their predecessors of 2010s?
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