Sunday, 7 December 2014

India Down Under - Tour Preview

India’s tour of England earlier this year was like a typical Anurag Kashyap movie. The tests began, puzzling everyone (of course, the Indian highway like wicket of Nottingham!) and then there were the joyful moments of winning the Lord’s test. But like in Kashyap’s movies, the happiness was short-lived, and it was time for the Indians to get drubbed. Like the end of his movies, the test series too ended on a somber note for the Indians.

In between the KIA Oval Test and the Adelaide Test, the Indians were supposed to play three tests with the men from Caribbean, but leave alone the tests, the ODI Series too wasn’t completed as planned. In came Sri Lanka, a fitting ally of the “BIG 3”, but for a series of 5 ODI’s. The Indians led by the dynamic Virat Kohli whitewashed the Lankans, but that is least likely to help them for the Australia tests. Come Adelaide, and the rustiness within the Indians will be evident.

Unlike any other series, this series even before commencing has been marred by a remorseful event. The tragic passing of Phillip Hughes has demoralized the entire cricketing fraternity. As a result, the mourning players were given a bit more time to come to terms with the departure of Hughes. But as they say, “The show must go on”, and here we are at the Adelaide Oval!

Virat Kohli has fond memories of playing at the Adelaide Oval. His first test ton come at this very venue and it was one gem of an inning. That inning was the coming of age for Virat, who now returns at the venue as India’s 32nd test captain. His counterpart Michael Clarke may not be 100% fit, but he will want to come out all guns blazing and win it for his “little brother”, Phillip Hughes.

There are several question marks which hover around the Indian team combination. For how long will they be persisting with Shikhar Dhawan, who averages just 29.5 outside the subcontinent.  His woes outside the off stump are well known. So is his shortcoming with the short ball. A failure in the first two tests, could mean Dhawan’s exit from the test side for a long time.  Cheteshwar Pujara, termed as the “modern day Dravid” had a poor run of scores to his name in England. His issue against the ball nipping in is obvious. However, being an excellent cutter, it will be easy for Pujara to adapt in Australia.

The last time India toured Australia, there were numerous technical glitches made by the Indian batsmen.   In Australia, it is crucial to play as late as possible. But that wasn’t the case on the previous occasion. The Indian batsmen drew themselves very early into the drives, and ended up giving simple catching practice to the slip cordon and the gully fielders. Another tactic successfully used by the Aussie pacers was of mesmerizing the batters with the chin music, and then pitching one full up. The Indian batsmen were stuck, and were neither forward nor backward. The end result- Catching practice for the slip cordon.

Every batsman in the Indian lineup has atleast one major technical shortcoming. With Dhawan, there is the off stump and the short ball issue. Pujara struggles against the ball coming in. Kohli’s angled bat woes were highlighted by James Anderson during the English summer. Ajinkya Rahane at times fails to keep the ball to the ground and ends up giving dollies to the fielders. Murali Vijay seems to be one solid batsman, and his wicket at the top will massively signify where India stand in the tests.

In the 2 warm ups, the Indian pacers got valuable match practice. In both the games, Varun Aaron stood out with his raw pace. This will be Ishant Sharma’s third tour to Australia. Ask a certain Ricky Ponting about tackling Sharma; and he will narrate about that sensational spell which Sharma bowled at the WACA in 2007/08. Umesh Yadav was among the rare positives for India in their previous Down Under annihilation. Mohammed Shami has been India’s best seamer in 2014. The talent in the pace battery is there, but now it is upto the pacers to transform the talent into actual match winning performances.

Players to watch out for:


Vijay was like a rock for India in the first two tests against England. His patience is terrific, and when he gets going, his graceful shots remind viewers of VVS Laxman. Apart from playing like VVS Laxman, Vijay would want to replicate Laxman’s success in Australia. The Tamil Nadu opener is often cautious against anything outside the off stump, so that shouldn’t be an issue. He did well in South Africa, and since the conditions of Australia are pretty similar to that of South Africa, expectations are high from Vijay. With his partner Shikhar Dhawan struggling in tests, the onus will be on Vijay to provide a solid start.


With conditions in Australia suiting his strengths, it will be Pujara’s role to replicate Rahul Dravid’s success of the 2003-04 tour of Down Under. It’s been two overseas tours, since Pujara has been lackluster. This time however, one can expect the Saurashtra lad to do well. Early on in his innings, it will be important for Pujara to curb his instincts. Once he is set, he can attempt the glorious cuts.


A lot is expected from the only batsman in the top 6 to have played tests in Australia. Virat was like a cornered tiger the last time around in Oceania. His wild celebration after reaching his ton at the Adelaide Oval is stiff fresh in everyone’s memory. Virat needs to watch out where his off stump is, and should be content to leave balls outside the off stump early on. His aggressive captaincy along with his classy batting will set the tone for India in the first test at the Adelaide Oval. He is probably the only one in the squad who can match Mitchell Johnson’s aggression.


This is Sharma’s third tour to this part of the world. Sharma has been India’s best pacer since the last three overseas tours. With the conditions greatly suiting the tall pacer, Ishant will do well this time around. He was lethal in 2007/08, and made the great Ricky Ponting his bunny. In the past, he has troubled Michael Clarke as well. It should be fun watching their battle this time around.


The Jharkhand pacer is India’s X factor at the moment. His raw pace is enough to send jitters in the opposing camp. It was nice to watch Aaron giving the English batsmen some chin music during the summers. His pace will be crucial in taming the aggression of David Warner. The short stuff rocketed down at 150 km/hr will set up a mouth watering contest. His ability to hit the deck hard will determine India’s chances in the upcoming tests.

As a whole, the Indian side lacks experience, but is full of confidence and resilience. It’s safe to say that  Australia are the favourites. This time, Indian fans should expect the team to give the Kangaroos some fight, unlike the previous occasion. Nonetheless, it will be great, viewing the two members of the Big 3 club battle it out.