By Denzil Fernandes
Daijiworld Media Network
Jan 13: When the Indian cricket team boarded the plane last year to travel to Australia no one in the squad would have realized their current position in the Test series. They are already two down in the four match series and pundits have already forecast a clean 4-0 blank out for the Indians. Having won both the Tests played so far, Australia are laying out more plans to whitewash the Indians in the 3rd Test in Perth starting on Friday at the WACA ground.
A huge line up of super fast bowlers, one better than the other are awaiting the nod from Aussie skipper Michael Clarke to be named in the playing eleven. For that matter, the hosts have now almost half a dozen pace merchants who can walk into the current side and put up a decent show. So much so, Clarke is having his hands full in deciding the final eleven. James Pattinson who bowled so well in the first two Tests before getting injured is being replaced by Ryan Harris who is returning to the side after recovering from his own injury problems.
Likewise, there is a question mark if spinner Nathan Lyon who did not do well in the earlier Tests will be retained or if another quickie Mitchell Starc will take his place. With the conditions at WACA promising a bouncy pitch and a feast of wickets for the pace bowlers there is a fear that any team which bats first has to put up a brave front unless they decide to crash and fall quickly. Even if India opts to field first, there can be possible damage if senior bowler Zaheer Khan manages to pick some quick wickets with his fine bowling. Here again there is every chance that India skipper Dhoni may call up Karnataka’s Vinay Kumar to the playing eleven and drop spinner Ashwin to bolster the fast bowling department. In that case, Dhoni will have to look to Sehwag and Tendulkar to provide the spin support later in the innings.
There is no doubt that the Indians have distinctly shown their disliking for ‘hot stuff’ at least on the field. Off the field, they have enjoyed their go karting fun and boat rides as well apart from watching cinemas etc. despite a world of experience, their senior pros like Laxman, Dravid and Sehwag have crashed like nine pins. This apart, Gambhir and Virhat Kohli have also not done their specific jobs of making tall scores. So much so, there have been many who have asked for Rohit Sharma to be brought in place of Virat Kohli to strengthen the batting. In that case, both Vinay Kumar and Rohit Sharma will be making their test debut for the country.
Except Sachin Tendulkar no one has scored decent runs and no batsman from the touring squad has managed a century at least. That includes unlucky Tendulkar who is the only one to have batted fluently but simply failing to get that 100th Test hundred yet. He will surely remember his past show at the same ground in 1992 when he scored magnificent 114 runs against a bowling attack that included current Australian bowling coach Craig McDermoot, Merv Hughes, Mike Whitney and Paul Reiffel on a pitch that was as fast as anything. Likewise, the Indian team can take heart from the brilliant victory at Perth in 2008 which should encourage them to repeat the feat and stop the Australians from marching ahead.
Despite having control at certain stages in the first two Tests at Melbourne and Sydney respectively, the Indians allowed the Australians to prevail and win the Tests. Rank bad batting was the culprit when one expected the old horses like Laxman and Dravid to click along with Tendulkar. Unless these stalwarts forget the past and start believing in scoring runs half the battle will be lost. The entire Test in Perth depends on how many runs the Indians will be able to put up whether they bat first or second.
Skipper Dhoni has always maintained his confidence and said that the team will hit back. Do not know when ! One hopes that his boys will back him on his statement and show that they still have the ability to beat Australia. Opener Sehwag has still not been consistent with this batting and has shone only in patches. The Perth pitch will give the Delhi cricketer a huge chance to score quickly if he gets going. With a bit of caution. Sehwag has to help India with a huge score that will ease the pressure on the latter batsmen. Once he gets going, there is no stopping the ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’ as he is known.
Any cricket tour to Australia can always be a tough assignment. Coupled with pitches that help their bowlers, the Australians will leave no stone unturned in their quest for victory. Backed by their cricket loving spectators, every Australian cricketer wearing that famous baggy cap loves to perform creditably when required. Even in the two Tests played so far their veterans Ponting and Hussey who were marked to be dropped smashed centuries and silenced their critics while helping the team win. It is time the Indians too developed such winning habits. Only winning at home is no good. The Indians have been very poor performers while playing abroad. Unless this changes, Indian cricket will take a big blow internationally.
The 3rd Test in Perth will be a ‘make or break’ affair as far as India is concerned. They have fallen both in Melbourne and Sydney. It is time now for Dhoni and his boys to rise and show their hosts that they still a force to reckon with. There can be no better proof than a resounding victory at Perth that will only show the wold that Team India has still the will to win.