The final frontier, to boldly do, what no other India team could ever do.
India has played 11 series in Australia and they have not won any a single one till date. An ominous record, which every Indian shies away from.
The best results came in the 1980-81 series and 2003-04 series, when the Men in Blue drew the series. In the former it was Kapil dev who wreaked havoc at Melbourne to draw the series. In 2003-04, it was Steve Waugh’s dogged innings which saved Australia from jaws of a series loss.
It is 2018 and India is the top Test side. They are on a mission to stamp their supremacy and they want to do what Ponting did in 2004-05. By winning in India, Ponting said, “Now Australia can be truly called No. 1 Team”. Similarly. India can have that status if they beat Australia in Australia.
India is still smarting by the defeat in England. I had written that time that selections of players were not done as per English conditions, probably that is why a team comprising of 18 members is in Australia, so that effective changes can be done for respective venues.
The conditions in Adelaide
The home of Sir Don Bradman has been a happy hunting ground for India. In 2014 who can forget the late charge by Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli. The Indians won here in 2003-04 and this time we hope to emulate the same.
Adelaide Oval is a belter for batsmen who can cut, pull and fend the ball to leg side. New ball is effective for first 20 overs and then it is all up to the batsmen. The only problems that are created for the men with the bat is how they throw away their wicket themselves. On the fourth and fifth day it becomes a rank turner.
Taking the pitch conditions, current form and the opposition under consideration, here’s the squad that India should field
Murali Vijay is an automatic inclusion. I had criticized his selection for England, as he was a bunny for banana balls of Anderson and Woakes. In Australia all bowlers send in dippers with the exception of Josh Hazelwood. Mitchell Starc’s ball leaves the bat on its angle. Vijay is equipped to handle such balls and he is my automatic selection.
My second opener is Rishabh Pant. He is a natural striker who will take the attack to Aussies in absence of Prithvi Shaw. The hosts’ attack is weak and if Rishabh plays for 20 overs, it will lay a strong foundation for later players. Rishabh used to open for India in U-19 formats with aplomb so he can do what we wanted from Prithvi and meanwhile, Vijay can settle into a solid rhythm
No. 3 is Cheteshwar Pujara and No. 4 is Virat Kohli. Obviously, these are no brainers as they are the pillars on whom India’s fortunes lie. If they fail, then India more than likely, crumbles. Pujara needs to buckle up as his poor form in the last series is a cause of worry. That being said, I am confident that this time he will come good.
India has a choice between Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari and KL Rahul and there are two slots. Rohit had not performed that well in last series, whereas Ajinkya had done so. Rahul has a problem with incoming deliveries and his inconsistency may be affecting his confidence. But, Rahul made a century in the last series in Australia. Hanuma has delivered every time and he can bowl too.
So, it is a catch-22 situation. I will, however, go with Ajinkya and Rohit for no. 5 and no. 6 respectively. In Australia, Ajinkya can cut and pull and the tall Aussie bowlers bowl short of length so he will be effective like in 2014. He applied himself in England too, so he will prove to be an asset.
I am great fan of Rohit’s talent and stroke play. He has to be assured that he is going to play a full series and he will deliver. He can be a suspect against a moving ball but, in Australia, bounce is a factor and Rohit can master the same. His ability to play with tail is astounding and he has the capability to adapt. So I am hoping that he will play, commiserating his talent
Sorry Rahul and Hanuma. Rahul is going under a rough phase and his failure can finish his career. So if Rishabh fails, he can come in as an opener in later tests. Hanuma can drive well but he is no puller and cutter so his run making will be strangulated and that may have an adverse impact so it is a wait for him. These two are players for future and India must bloom them in the right manner.
Who can play a Chinaman? No one. The world of cricket doesn’t have enough Chinaman bowlers at lower levels, so facing Kuldeep Yadav will always be an area of uncertainty. Further his performances in T-20 will make others fear him so he dethrones Ashwin as India’s first spinner.
Now the second slot goes to Ashwin, even though he does not have great record in Australia. But then again, he hardly got to bowl in the fourth innings. Further his batting will be very effective and I am sure in Adelaide he will get four to five wickets in the second innings. So Jadeja has to wait in spite of his stellar performances in England.
Looking at the success of Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan and Kapil Dev in the past, I am of a firm thought that seam movement is the key to get the Aussies out. Ball should be short of length but little further up so batman is tentative to pull, cut or drive.
On this count I feel that Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami are automatic choices. Their prodigious seam movement off the pitch will induce many catches and if India uses them, then they can finish the match in four days.
For the third seamer spot, choice is between Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and the warhorse Ishant Sharma.
In Adelaide I will give the chance to Bhuvaneshwar as he can exploit the new ball better than others. However in middle overs he will be a liability. Bhuvaneshwar batted well the last time too and his batting gets him the slot.
Ishant is no longer the same bowler. In friendly pitches he can do well but flat pitches he is just a stock bowler. Umesh’s failure to cement his place, meanwhile, is an enigma. Umesh has pace and movement but he leaks runs so captains tend to over look him. I feel that for tail enders he is our best bowler and he should get a chance if Bhuvaneshwar doesn’t click.
This team has the potential to beat anyone. The absence of David Warner and Steve Smith has tilted the balance in India’s favor. The Men in Blue, however, should not be complacent. In 1977-78 India lost to C-side of Australia, as most players were away for the Packer tour. Aussie grit and grind cannot be underestimated.
6th of December is the day when the Indians embark on conquering the final frontier. Let’s see how it pans out