Odds Are Stacked Against The Australian Cricket Team
There are so many factors against the Australian team that even their most die-hard fans would agree that the visitors face an arduous task during their four Test series against India starting at Pune on Thursday.
For starters it is not a team that inspires confidence. Except for a few players, there are no big names in the side and no cricketer of uncommon talent. Second is their abysmal record in Asia. Australia have lost every one of the last nine Tests they have played in India, Sri Lanka and against Pakistan in the UAE. Third there is the awe inspiring record of the Indians who have now gone 19 Tests without defeat.
They have won six Test series in a row and as everyone knows the Indians have always been formidable opponents at home. Indeed since losing to England at Kolkata in December 2012 India have played 20 Tests and have won 17 of them with the remaining three drawn. In this connection it is also worth noting the dismal record of the Australians who have won only one single Test series in India in the last 47 years.
So what can Steve Smith and his men do if they want to spring a surprise? The captain has spoken on dreaming about an unexpected triumph so while he acknowledges that it is going to be a tough tour he has also spoken about relishing the challenge. In reality there seems to be very little that the Aussies can do to halt the Indian juggernaut.
Both Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh have spoken in terms of a 4-0 clean sweep and experts from both countries have rated the visitors as no-hopers. This could be the one card that Smith has in his hand – there will be hardly any pressure as he and his men have nothing to lose. But against this all-conquering Indian team it could still be a losing card.
The way I see it there are four key men and all of them will have to come off in spades if Australia are to pull off a surprise. Smith himself and David Warner among the batsmen and Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood among the bowlers will all have to strike the form of their lives for Australia to have any chance. The rest of the players lack the ability, record and experience either to trouble Virat Kohli and company or to tackle Ravi Ashwin and company successfully.
Warner at the top of the order could well be a crucial factor for the Aussies. The 30-year- old left-hander is in superb form and his attacking approach makes him a dangerous opponent. He did have an indifferent series last time out in India scoring just 195 runs in the four Tests at an average of 24 but this can be discounted for he is a vastly improved player now.
Smith himself is a class act as underlined by the fact that he averages 60 after 50 Tests. A century every third Test signifies his hunger for big scores and leading from the front comes naturally to him. As the best player of spin in the side the onus will be on him to inspire his players and his countering the wiles of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja could be one of the sights of the series.
In bowling Australia will depend overmuch on Starc and Hazlewood. If these two take wickets by the bucketful the visitors could still stand a chance. They have enough inspiration for the best of Aussie pace bowlers from Ray Lindwall to Mitch Johnson have performed admirably in India. A case may also be made out for Nathan Lyon on the basis of his 15 wickets in three Tests in the last series in 2013 but these were taken at 37 apiece and the form in which the Indian batsmen are in currently it is unlikely that the experienced off spinner will be a force to reckon with.
The Indians start as heavy favourites and will only have to guard against complacency. The home team is a well balanced and well settled outfit with a strong reserve bench so that even injuries or lack of form may not be a major factor. They have been functioning for a long time now as a well oiled machine and they should be able to steamroll Australia, notch up yet another series victory and continue their triumphant march.
There is nothing very special that they have to do except to carry on playing the winning brand of cricket they have been doing for so long. The batting line-up is strong and the bowling varied. They are enjoying an enviable run and are playing in familiar surroundings. They just cannot afford to fail and the chances are they will not particularly as they are playing under a captain who can do no wrong with the bat or as a leader.