Starting Sunday, India and Australia will battle it out in what is expected to be yet another engrossing series. While the Tests between the two sides have produced more entertaining cricket in recent times, Australia would not be complaining too much as they have an excellent one-day record in India. They beat India 4-2 during the last one-day series between the two sides, which was held in 2007.
Australia had also clinched the one-day contests in 2003 (tri-series involving New Zealand) and 2001 (bilateral). More importantly, they go into the clash with a huge amount of confidence and good form behind their back. Post losing the prestigious Ashes, they trounced England 6-1 in the one-dayers that followed and defended their Champions Trophy crown without much trouble.
In the process, they also regained the numero uno ranking, which they had lost briefly India, on the other hand, have had a rather torrid run. They suffered a major setback, losing to Pakistan in their Champions Trophy game and were thus knocked out of the major tournament. Earlier in the year, they failed in the T20 World Cup as well, losing in the first round itself. In addition to that, none of the IPL teams, which feature players who will take part in this tournament, made it past the Super 8 stage in the Champions League T20. Of course there were series wins in West Indies and more recently Sri Lanka. However, they were rather hollow and only helped in hiding the deficiencies that existed in the Indian team.
That said, they are dangerous side at home, no matter who the opposition. And Australia are fully well aware of that. The fact that three big names of Indian cricket – Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and paceman Zaheer Khan – have returned from injury will be a major boost to the team. But it would be unfair to expect them to fire straightaway as some amount of rustiness is bound to creep in.
A lot will thus depend on the other big three of the team – Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and the skipper MS Dhoni himself. They will have to fire for India to do well in this tough contest as the bowling remains India’s weakness. As mentioned before, the comeback of Zaheer is a plus and while Ashish Nehra has been good on his return to the international scene, his consistency can only be measured over a longer period of time. Also, Harbhajan Singh needs to do some serious soul-searching to be return to his ‘Turbanator’ ways.
Following some eye-grabbing domestic performances Munaf Patel gets another opportunity to resurrect his international, while Sudeep Tyagi has a deserved chance to show that he is ready for big-time cricket. And with Yusuf Pathan being shown the door, Ravindra Jadeja can stake his claim to being the batting all-rounder in the side. India cannot afford to take too long to find the right combination though.
Conversely, Australia are looking strong in both the departments. After years of struggle, Shane Watson has finally emerged as the all-rounder which the selectors always searched for in him. He has been in sensational form with the bat, and considering his love affair with India courtesy IPL 1, Indian bowlers are likely to get some headaches. And after being out of the game for a reasonable amount of time, Brett Lee has only come back stronger and fitter. With Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson in form and youngsters like Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Peter Siddle having already proved their worth, Australia undoubtedly look the better of the two sides and India will have to exploit their potential to the hilt to put it beyond the number one team in the world.