Can The Australians Regroup And Rise?

Suspension has hit the visitors hard; new opening pair to take guard for India
MOHALI (TIP): Transition period for both the teams but hour of realisation for one as India and Australia enter the decisive phase of the Test series. India has dominated the two Tests thus far against an opposition that has looked short of confidence and woefully bereft of substance on challenging pitches.

How strongly Michael Clarke and his band of novices react to the situation here would mean a lot for the Australian camp. This is a bizarre state for the Australian cricket. The team is hardly playing cricket… The Test series, touted as a hugely competitive fixture in the international calendar, has not really lived up to its hype and should have a bearing on the popularity of the longer format of the game. Australia winning 4-0 at home and India threatening to pay back by the same coin cannot be the best advertisement for Test cricket.

Disturbing trend
The Indians can’t play seam and bounce and the Aussies have come a cropper against spin. It effectively conveys a disturbing trend that most teams, with the exception of South Africa and England, have forgotten the art of winning away from home. “Good teams win overseas,” Australia coach Micky Arthur said the other day. True. But modern cricket teams have shown a perceptible slide in quality when playing overseas. Clive Lloyd and Steve Waugh have led from the front, registering memorable wins away.

Sourav Ganguly, too, had a decent record but Clarke and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have not been able to match their home performances with those overseas. The key to survival, as obviously believed by most captains, is to order favourable pitches at home.

Defining knocks
Australia has played ordinary cricket on this tour against some motivated stuff from India where Dhoni and Pujara have produced defining knocks to swing the match India’s way at Chennai and Hyderabad. Australia has prepared poorly. Such a contrast from the Alastair Cook-led English team which taught India a few lessons in playing the slow ball! With the exception of Clarke, the Australian batting has appeared clueless against the Indian bowlers on dry and doctored pitches. Mediocrity has been rampant in the Australian ranks as their batsmen have danced to the tune of Indian spinners. The lack of grit and class was so pronounced in the Australian approach.

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Acts of indiscipline, costing four players a place in this match, have hit the Australian camp hard. If it manages to regroup and rise, the series could come alive. On the eve of the third Test match, though, India looks set to savage the opposition as ruthlessly as in the last two encounters.

A new opening pair, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, will take guard on Thursday at the PCA Stadium against an attack minus James Pattinson. Even if Dhoni may not be inclined to disturb the winning combination, a toss up between Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha can’t be ruled out.

The pitch, with cracks distinctly visible, is likely to break and a two-paced nature could well prove lethal for the batsmen to survive. Australia may leave out off-spinner Nathan Lyon and left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty in case Mathew Wade reports fit. Brad Haddin had a batting stint in the ‘nets’ since he is expected to bolster the batting with a possible inclusion of Steve Smith.

Rains predicted
Cloudy day and showers in the afternoon have been predicted but one can look forward to some intense cricket provided Australia lives up to the gritty image that signified Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, in whose name the series trophy is named.

The teams
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Pragyan Ojha and Ashoke Dinda.

Australia: Michael Clarke (capt.), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Matthew Wade, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith.

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