India will look to learn from its mistakes to put a strong batting performance against probably the weakest Australian team in a long time.

 

Be it the fierce rivalry, the on and off field competition or the entertainment value, a series between Australia and India never fails to disappoint you. Now that the cat is out of the bag after overseas series loss in South Africa and England, India, still the favourites, will look to learn from its mistakes to put a strong batting performance against probably the weakest Australian team in a long time.

“If we learn from our mistakes in South Africa and England, it will hold us in good stead,” head coach Ravi Shastri said during a press conference in Mumbai. And this time, reputation of Virat-Shastri duo seems to be at stake who have been vehemently claiming and endorsing the team’s achievement even as the score line in the last away series takes a back seat. The road may be rough but going by the current pack of bowlers at disposal, this team can do what has never been done before.

What’s perhaps is keeping India shy from tasting a series win is seizing those crucial moments. And it might be due the reason that the team doesn’t play enough practice games so as to acclimatise to the conditions. It’s debatable and the jury is out. But take for example the last time India visited in 2014-15. It lost the first two tests in Adelaide and Brisbane but made an impressive comeback to draw the next two in Melbourne and Sydney. The late comeback reflects that the team needs time to get used to the bounce and pace.

So why is that even after two consecutive heartbreaking series losses in South Africa and England, hopes from the current Indian side still runs sky high? It is the consistency and fire power in the bowling line-up. They are strong, fast, fit and fearless. It’s overwhelming to recall that initial flush of excitement when a graphic was put up during the England series of either sides and the four fastest bowlers were all Indians.

Not many would bet on Ishant Sharma but he will be the key to wind up the Aussies. In England, he ended up being the highest wicket-taker. His biggest takeaway from series – he simply refused to let up with discipline and intensity.

Sharma deserves a pat on his back. He suffered injury after the England series but immediately turned his focus towards Ranji trophy for his home team (Delhi) against Himachal Pradesh to prove his fitness. He is probably in the form of his life, pitching the ball in right areas and swinging it both ways. And who can forget his brilliant spell where he ran riot in the second innings in Perth, setting up Ricky Ponting and prompting Steve Waugh to call him the next best thing in Indian cricket.

Jaspreet Bumrah deserves no mention these days. He has been the go to man for Kohli whenever the captain is in dire need of wickets. No other bowler in the world possesses the kind of skill Bumrah brings to the table, across formats. If this guy is on the song, he can run through the top order that has the likes of Usman Khawaja. Arguably one of the best at death overs in shorter formats, he will be expected to dismantle the lower order, which India failed to do in England and that became the difference between the two teams. Mohammad Shami, India’s bowler for all seasons, has also been the most reliable for a long time now. He can bowl longer spells without getting tired and has the knack of picking wickets in the middle overs when the going gets tough. Another decisive factor will be Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav. The duo is lethal in any given pitch in the world and the Australians, apart from Aaron Finch are not the best players of spin bowling.

Before the Kohlis and Pujaras, the trio of Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid shouldered the responsibility of the battling line-up for almost a decade. India’s display of batting prowess at that time used to be the stuff of the folklore. And it was the bowling that mostly let India down. It’s 2018 and what a turn of events it has been. The batsmen undoubtedly have the necessary skills to play a five-day game but lack the consistency and temperament to survive the grueling five days. Kohli alone cannot win you the game as was evident in last Australian series where India lost despite his heroics.

Pankaj Singh, an ardent cricket lover and a fearsome hitter, is known for his long sixes at a sprawling ‘maath’ (ground) in Chinsurah situated on the banks of Hooghly. He has never missed an India-Australia series since he started watching cricket in 2003. Though he says this is the best chance for India to topple Australians, Pankaj advises caution too. “I think Rohit and Rahul will be the key in the batting line-up. It is expected that Pujara and Kohli will score but, for me, how the other batsmen go about their innings will be a decisive factor.”

And rightly so, the other batsmen need to up their ante and play like the number one side. Rohit Sharma’s inclusion into the Test team will provide the much needed balance that the team need at the lower order. He can be counted among the best in the world with the ease and elegance he plays in the limited format but he still has a lot to prove in Test cricket. He is also one of the best back-foot player in the team and this will surely help him in Australian pitches.

The Kookaburra ball doesn’t swing like the Duke ball does in England. Sachin who always enjoyed batting in Australia had once said that it’s more about spending time on the wicket and getting used to the bounce. Batting becomes joyful! The current batsmen need to follow suit of this great batsman if they are to do well.

When Shastri and Kohli addressed a press conference before leaving Australia, it became apparent that their cause of concern is India’s dismal batting performance overseas. “We all are feeling good about the fact that we have a great bowling line-up but the batsmen need to step up as well. Everyone is keen to correct their mistakes and put in a complete performance,” Kohli had said. It seems he was trying to make it a point that the “complete performance” will only come if the batting clicks in the series.

This series may also be the finality of the potential of the team and if, despite several claims, it can really win the overseas tours. The responsibility is huge and players must be having a better understanding of alien conditions after the England series. The need of the hour is execution on the field and the conditions might be testing but we all dream of a day, a moment, when we get what we deserved and this must be running on minds of Indians this time around.

India will start their campaign with first of the three T-20 beginning on November 21. The team will play its first Test match of the four-match series at the Adelaide Oval on  6  December.

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