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By Sunil Gavaskar
Will the Test series end on a happy note for India and by happy I mean a draw. Happier still would be a draw with a first innings lead and happiest would be with a win of course. That looks a bit farfetched at the moment simply because the team has been outplayed in virtually all departments of the game by the opposition. The Australian media is loving it because nothing gives them greater satisfaction than in seeing the noses of the rich spoilt [their version] Indian stars being rubbed in the dust. They think that in doing so it is being one up on the mighty BCCI, who they feel is the cause of all evil in the game.
It is just like in football where Britain footballers are the envy of the world for the riches that they earn playing in their league, though it is debatable whether it is even the Premier League in the world when compared to the Spanish and Italian Leagues. However the Brits are terrific at promoting their own and the rest of the world, apart from the Americans just laps it up. So it believes that Lords is the greatest ground in the world, Wimbledon is the greatest tennis tournament in the world, the British open golf is the best golf event in the world. Silverstone is the best motor racing track in the universe and Wembley, the best football ground in the world.
All these venues are also referred to as the homes of those sports. What is without doubt the best in the world is their sense of humour, and their ability to poke fun at themselves and laugh at themselves too.
They may well need plenty of that as they take on Pakistan in the Test and one day series that has started in the United Arab Emirates because on those pitches Pakistan will be hard to beat unless they are in one of their self destruct mode. The Pakistanis have played there before so know the conditions very well and they will get good support too from the expat population especially in the limited overs matches.
India too has good support wherever they play, but that may be dwindling after the manner in which they have crumbled in Australia. Certainly not many apart from the diehard fan and the gamblers are now waking at five in the morning to see what the team has done. If anything the time difference has meant that many an Indian fan's day has been spoilt by what he has seen down under. That is why many will prefer to wait for the one day series to start where they hope the world champs will be at their best and make up for their Test reverses.
The interest in the last Test at Adelaide will be centered around any changes in the team. There has been one forced change with skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni being suspended for one match for slow over rate by the Indian bowlers. Indian bowlers do take their own time to bowl their overs and it is the presence of a spinner that has helped with the over rate. With India going in with a four man seam attack at Perth, the over rate was going to be even slower and it was no wonder that the team fell behind and left its captain in the untenable position that he found himself in. In India with two spinners playing the over rate is seldom an issue, but it is overseas that India struggles and especially when things are not going its way. There is a lethargy that seems to develop which makes even crossing between overs slow and that does not help at all.
So will there be a change in the playing eleven apart from Dhoni? Yes, Ashwin will be back in place of Vinay Kumar. Vinay Kumar's selection ahead of Abhimanyu Mithun is typical of India. When Praveen Kumar was rendered unfit to tour, Abhimanyu Mithun was picked and it was only when Varun Aaron also was out because of injury that Vinay Kumar got a look in. So if he was picked after Mithun how does he play ahead of him? This is not the first time the tour selection committee has picked a replacement player before one of the original touring party members and all it shows is that the team management did not agree with the choice of Mithun in the first place and so when they got the chance they showed their disapproval by picking the person they wanted in the team, but was not given to them.
There has been a lot of speculation about the future of the stalwarts who have served Indian cricket so magnificently for so long and since the next Test match after the Adelaide Test is later in the year, the team management will give one more chance for the old guard to go out on a high. That means that Rohit Sharma and company may have to wait a bit longer to make their Test debuts and maybe it is a blessing in disguise, since they will then be able to do so on familiar home territory.
Whatever it is Indian cricket fans are hoping that the best batting pitch in Australia will help turn things around and allow India to return with a semblance of pride after what has been a tour of high hopes and even greater disappointment.