Both Virender Sehwag (right) and Gautam Gambhir can exploit the bounce and can play very well on the up. If Gambhir keeps his cool and deals with the bouncers smartly, India's openers can win games with their respective bats © Getty Images
Both Virender Sehwag (right) and Gautam Gambhir can exploit the bounce and can play very well on the up. If Gambhir keeps his cool and deals with the bouncers smartly, India’s openers can win games with their respective bats © Getty Images


By Vidooshak


Australia has just lost a Test to New Zealand by seven runs. When a team loses by that kind of margin, it hurts not just its pride but also its morale. Losing by a whisker often saps the spirit of teams. After Australia pulled out a tight victory against South Africa earlier this season, one would have thought that they would win this time too. Looks like Michael Clarke and company have not quite begun the journey back up.


On the other hand, coach John Wright seems to be doing the same wonders to the New Zealand side that he did with the Indian side a decade ago. Ross Taylor may not be Sourav Ganguly, but he sure is leading well. His players seem committed and he too, like Ganguly, seems to be finding his Bracewells and Brownlies. Ganguly found Harbhajan Singh and VVS Laxman and never looked back. New Zealand have always been the team of honest triers, but with Wright at the post and Taylor to lead, they may scale some heights here.


That brings us to India. They have just finished up a series against West Indies. The results speak of a one-sided series, but the details show that India didn’t quite destroy the West Indians. India’s aging middle-order was put to the test and they only got passing grades.


Australia is grooming a pace attack that has some teeth, including the bane of Indian batsmen, swing and bounce. The Test matches are going to be played at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Perth’s WACA andAdelaide. Barring Adelaide, that favors India’s style of batting, India have some work on their hands. James Pattinson and Peter Siddle have the potential to bother India. With Pat Cummins, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris gone, India’s work is theoretically easier. Shane Watson may be back for the Boxing Day Test to restore the much-needed balance to the Australian team. He will give a big boost. He could very well become the key for Australia.


Australia’s batting too has an aged look to it. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey seem to have slowed down. With Shaun Marsh back in the side, Australia may find some missing steel. Watson, David Warner and Marsh at the top with Ponting, Clarke and Hussey to follow is a difficult sight for Indian bowlers. Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have to fire. If Zaheer manages to stay fit, India might be able to pull out some victories. Ishant has been okay without being menacing, but there is a question mark over his fitness as well. If he is fit, he could turn dangerous, if his previous series in Australia is an indicator. Umesh Yadav will probably get carried away by the bounce and swing on offer and will need to really use the practice games well to fine tune himself. At his pace, he can be a handful. But in Australia pace and bounce helps batsmen too.


And this is where, India’s best bets are Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Both can exploit the bounce and can play very well on the up. If Gambhir keeps his cool and deals with the bouncers smartly, India’s openers can win games with their respective bats. Sehwag’s audacious ODI double century would have inflicted fear in the Australian ranks. Hopefully, Sehwag will carry the form to Australia and put the Aussie bowlers on the defense. The MCG is where the first Test will be played. It’s the same venue where Sehwag smashed 194 in 2003. If he decides to begin the series similarly, India’s chances will receive a huge boost.


There is no doubt that this is India’s best chance to win a series in Australia. Irfan Pathan would have added to the team’s options instead of Abhimanyu Mithun or Vinay Kumar. Irfan’s has regained the banana swing and he seems enthusiastic as ever.


Virat Kohli may play his first full series. This should be his coming of age series. For the first time, Sachin Tendulkar’s batting may not be a huge factor for India. On the other hand, this is also his big chance to put his stamp of authority on Australia in Australia.


A juicy contest awaits and one can hardly wait for the series to start.


(Vidooshak is a blogger @ Opinions on Cricket . He was drawn into cricket by Golandaaz as a schoolboy. His bluster overshadows his cricketing ability. He played as a wicket-keeper in a college team but was promptly dropped. The college selection committee had slightly higher standards than Pakistani selectors. He did reasonably well in tennis ball cricket until he was benched for a final game by the team that he captained. To say some of it was due to his opinions would be an understatement of sorts. Regardless, Vidooshak finds time to opinionate relentlessly and lives a vicarious life by watching cricket teams make obvious mistakes. Good news for Vidooshak is that someone always loses a cricket game, someone always gets belted and someone always flops. Vidooshak always looks for an alternative explanation and rarely agrees with mainstream consensus. Needless to say he has no friends, only ‘tolerators’! While not throwing his weight around, Vidooshak does not run marathons or draw pictures, but reads voraciously on all topics, volunteers at local failing schools, is an avid but average golfer and runs an Indian association in mid-west America)