India tour to Australia has kicked off with a couple of practice matches. Its was so magnanimous of BCCI to let a batch of our players leave early and gift them two matches, guess thats what early Xmas gifts resemble. I don't know if the Board thing or our players, but we don't consider practice matches much on to do list of a tour. India's previous tours to South Africa, West Indies and England being the latest one, have seen us in pretty embarrassing situations, in South Africa we lost the match in the first session, the pitch turned docile after Indian innings and every SAf batsman helped himself with runs and form. West Indies we were 5 wickets down for peanuts the then Man in form with th Bat, Harbhajan and guess who Suresh Raina bailed us out, if it was any other set of players in the opposition we would have been decimated. England saw us winning nothing except a couple of mini sessions between lunch and the following drinks break. I hope fortunes have changed.
India vs Aus is no more the marquee series per se. But for an Indian fan (here, me :P) and players in the team there should be enough spice to compel me (read us) to follow. Its fitness rather than form on this tour that will be the key to the series. It is the key to any series but for us this is the one. You can go out of form and inform in the middle of the game but if you are down on fitness. You can go into a series with an indifferent form and pull of some magical performances but it would be difficult to go into a series with your fitness in the wrong direction of slope. Then Aus is a big country to travel with injuries. Sehwag, you don't know, before you get up on Boxing day he may already playing 50 of 30 balls. Gambhir next to stay put. Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar have all done well against Australia at home and away when Aussies were at peak of the game in the last decade or so. Laxman is just primed for runs. Sachin is a ton away from ton of tons, wonder if anyone has noticed it. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will have to fight it out for now exclusive so bereft batting order. But Kohli may get a look in before Rohit Sharma. Dhonis batting may just be under a more stern observation.
Zaheer is coming out of long injury lay off, Ishant seems to be jumping a skipping rope between Am-I-injured-or-Am-I-not. Umesh, Ashwin and Ojha are yet to play in Aus. Irfan Pathan is not selected for some reason. Praveen Kumar wont be there. He did well in West Indies and England and did enough to be considered a decent test bowler. If there is swing he will do it. Bhajji and Sreesanth have been sent home for a long family vacation. Ashwin should fancy a chance against Aussies who have traditionally felt the pinch from the off spinners from Laker, Jasu Patel, Bhajji, Murali, Swann have done well against Australia. I for one would have love to see, Ishant and Bhajji bowling in tandem to Ricky Ponting. Ishant beating the inside edge with Ponting on the back foot, Bhajji beats the outside edge with Ponting coming forward. But then we have to savour what we get. Zaheer Khan is the keep simply because he has played just three test match in Australia. He is has to last the whole tour and keep taking wickets. He is vital to the outcome of the series from Indian perspective
Down Under - getting out of the rot.
Aussies now find themselves thin on talent and aptitude. It is (obviously) hard to replace guess who have entered history of the game. I don't know for how long Haddin may play, there are a few injured players, not suggesting Indians don't have their share of worries. Aussies have worries of their own. Its only Bangladesh and West Indies who have lost more matches. Ponting seems to the punter who out of tricks, but then the harder you want to pray of Indians winning this tour, they more you got to hope that Ponting doesn't get into form. Hussey is another player who can keep ticking, best brains in Aussie line up Watson is not played so that is a dream bonus. Why wasn't Warner scripted couple of years back is the question? Phill Jacques is a joke. Hilfenhaus makes a come back. Siddle will look to sizzle again, rest of the Aussie bowling is something I don't know about. I must add though, I am looking forward to Lyon vs Dhoni.
There are some key duels you want to see, Sehwag vs the cover point or third-man fielder. Dravid & Tendulkar old (oldest) war horses vs greenhorn Aussie rookie bowlers. Gambhir vs bad luck and ill form. Zaheer vs fitness. Ricky Ponting vs Ashwin. Hussey vs Zaheer. Umesh Yadav needs to adapt quickly and be counted. I am just wondering is Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar should all swap places. It's an idea that has caught my fancy. I wonder if it would make sens to have Laxman at three, Dravid at four and Tendulkar at five. Dhoni vs Haddin.
I am contemplating either a daily blog or after at the end of each innings.for this tour especially for the days test matches played. There is one thing that I pray for, is series to be free of any possible controversy. The most important question for me will they employ DRS?