Team India has not won a Test series over a top-4 team since beating Australia at home in 2010. Australia’s latest visit presents India the best chance they can hope for to set this right. The trip to South Africa later this year is likely to prove much tougher than this transitional Australian squad playing in unfamiliar conditions for most of them.
On cue, Harbhajan Singh has kicked off the so-called mindgames (presumably after waiting in vain for some barbs from Australia). Harbhajan has only just been reinstated in the side in spite of a middling Ranji season, but this has not curbed his enthusiasm for verbal warfare. Perhaps it is easier than warfare of the on-field kind.
Not only has he boldly declared that India would beat Australia 4-0 in the series but has also claimed that India will teach Australia how to play cricket. I am sure Cricket Australia would much appreciate his magnanimity in compensating for their purported inadequacy in this regard. The contrast with the circumspection of Aussie skipper Michael Clarke is stark. He said, “It’s not about what you say; it’s about what you do… It’s no good making statements and comments and not backing them up.”
Words that one would hope Team India in general and Harbhajan in particular would take heed of now, more than ever. Their Test performances have gone from bad to worse and the scoreline of the last home series (against England) was barely better than that of the overseas debacles of 2011, for all the talk of revenge and raging turners. With the gradual easing out of seniors from the squad, the team is raw and yet to find its range. Against a young and relatively inexperienced Australian side that is facing similar problems, they can hope to turn the tide and break the string of heavy defeats to top-ranked sides.
That is, if they give their opponents the respect they deserve. Australia may not have too many strengths when it comes to bowling or playing spin, but they can be trusted to try very hard. What’s more, Clarke is in the form of his life and has so far proved to be a bold and imaginative leader. It was here at Bangalore in 2004 that he debuted and came through his proverbial acid test with flying colours. He would surely draw inspiration from that series, which Australia won, to lead the current team through a tough examination of their skill and character.
The onus therefore lies on India to make it the tough test that it promises to be for Australia. India would still need to bat and bowl very well in every game to win. Unfortunately, they haven’t really done that in quite a while and they have a mountain to climb before their whitewash dreams come true.
In the meantime, it seems Harbhajan is enjoying a bit of footie, i.e. foot-in-the-mouth game, so that fans are entertained irrespective of the eventual outcome of the series. For the sake of cricket, one hopes it will be a good one.
(Madan Mohan is a 27-year-old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)