India hold the advantage - Renin Wilben column

2008 Sep 15 by DreamCricket

Australia recently announced their team for the much awaited tour of India starting next month. And on paper it looks like one of weakest Aussie squads that will land in India.

Australia recently announced their team for the much awaited tour of India starting next month. And on paper it looks like one of weakest Aussie squads that will land in India.

The team has a completely different make up to the one that played here last in 2004 and emerged victorious. Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and of course then stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist have all hung up their boots. All these men were match-winners in their own right and hence will sorely be missed. Also Jason Gillespie despite being a consistent performer does not feature in the scheme of things for Australia anymore. To add to Australia's anguish the dangerous Andrew Symonds has missed the plane to India owing to his off-field misdemeanours. Another strong reason for India to feel confident.

While the batting still looks reasonably solid with the return of Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden return from injuries joined by Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey and Simon Katich, it is the bowling that will be Australia's major worry. While nothing needs to be said about the ferocious Brett Lee, the others apart from Mitchell Johnson are yet to be tested at the international level.

Leg spinner Bryce McGain makes his debut aged 36. The other newcomers include off spinner Jason Krejza and pacemen Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger. And if anything, it can be the 'unknown quantity' factor that can trouble the Indian batsmen. Australia can take heart from the fact that it has happened before too. Shaun Udal gave India plenty of headaches when he toured the country last time with the English squad. Ajantha Mendis is also a case in point but he can be considered an exceptional case. So there is no reason why India should underestimate the rookie Aussies. At the end of the day one cannot forget that they are the world champions.

But Australia will need skipper Ricky Ponting to lead from the front. Punter has had a tough time in India during his three visits. In '98, he was involved in the infamous pub brawl, in 2001 he was Harbhajan Singh's bunny and in 2004, he lost the Mumbai Test the only game he captained in. But Ponting has gone on to become the world's greatest batsman since then and would be desperate to set the record straight.

Matthew Hayden making a comeback from injury will be the biggest boost for Australia. It was in India that Hayden resurrected a stop start career in 2001 and now he an even greater responsibility with the batting lacking the depth of those glorious years. The biggest challenge for the Aussie batsmen will be to handle Harbhajan an Anil Kumble on Indian tracks and Hayden will have to lead the charge. Of course he will need support from the others as well.

Like Hayden, Michael Clarke too has fond memories of India having made a sensational hundred on debut here in 2004. Since then he has faltered at times, but his talent can never be questioned. And who knows, India might bring out the best in Clarke again. It would also be interesting to see whether IPL hero Shane Watson makes it to the playing XI. Symonds' replacement, he may not fall in the same class but makes up for it to a great extent with his commitment.

On paper, it definitely looks like Australia will end up as the weaker of the two teams (India's squad yet to be announced), but it just needs one series to discover new heroes. And Australia would be hoping that this will be the one. After all, many are now terming the India-Australia rivalry bigger that the Ashes.