09 February 2013

The Australian squad to battle India in India

With the ODI series claimed against the West Indies, which will help our ODI ranking, the Indian Test series is now just around the corner and trying to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be no easy task in Indian conditions with a side that very few can wholeheartedly identify with.

Sachin Tendulkar recently scored 140* runs for Mumbai - at a ground we will not be playing at - and India's bowling stocks seem to be on track for the series, so they're gearing up for the clash with varied results.
The batting averages for India's Ranji Trophy saw a majority of batsmen boasting mighty high batting averages, while a vast majority of the wicket takers were fast/medium pace bowlers, a big contrast to the lack of balance in bowler type wicket takings between India and England.

A whole bunch of our boys have already made the trip over to settle in and of our side only a handful of players have experienced Test cricket in India, specifically four players; Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle (2008) and Shane Watson.

Three of the above mentioned players have tasted individual success in India but not victory as a team in recent times. The last time we won a series in India was 2004 and you cannot bring up the carnage we brought about with a 4-0 win in Australia last summer. This is India in India and it always proves to be a whole different dynamic.

Interestingly enough I had a look back at the last series which we lost 2-0, a series that should have been shelved with the shortage of games.

The 1st Test at Mohali was a game were the fast bowlers performed with spin providing assistance, something Peter Siddle sees as a legitimate strategy.

Zaheer Khan and Mitchell Johnson both claimed 5fors and in the second innings for both sides India had Zaheer and Ishant Sharma claim a collective 6 wickets with Douggie Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus claiming a collective 7 wickets for Australia. The seam bowlers dominated the proceedings with the ball.

On the batting front Shane Watson scored his second Test century (126 runs followed by 56) and with his return to cricket being highlighted with a century and a half-century against the Windies it ought to put a hop in his step as he recalls that innings and steps up as vice-captain.

In the 2nd Test our boys struggled to pick themselves up due to a sense of being deflated having thrown away a golden opportunity to take the 1st Test after being kept at bay by the determination of VVS Laxman (now retired) and support from his lower order companions.

Despite the track of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, proving to be a good batting track for both sides in the 1st innings we saw the value of spin being well executed and an all-round effort from the support bowlers.

Nathan Hauritz did not share as much fortune as the Indian spinners and Shane Warne slammed Ricky Ponting for his lack of creativity with the field settings for Ritz. India found the target of 207 all too easy.

It was another case of lessons learned and the harsh reality of the challenges in India.

It's a tough game there, as soon as you let your guard down and give them an opening in any passage of play they usually have the utmost confidence to play you out of the game and it is usually a slow manner in which they do it.
It is a quality they lack outside of India but within their own borders it's brutal and we saw a prime example in the 2nd Test that one below par batting performance was all it took to turn an evenly matched contest into a walk in the park for MS Dhoni's men.

We may lack experience and players of past experience but therefore the scars of the past will be minimal in the minds of the newcomers and a fresh attitude is the first step to take heading into India, especially with all the drama over the rotation-policy which caused a bitter-sweet summer.

Our squad is not one to boast about or has massive talking rights for that manner but a squad that has a light at the end of the tunnel, which will hopefully be reached come the Ashes series!

It's an obvious reason why Peter Siddle spoke highly about our fast bowling attack in front of the media, stating that is our strength and should be used with full assault. Simply put it is validly our strength and the most proven stronghold of this side.

We do not have a duo of dynamite, high quality spin - a monstrous advantage in the sub-continent - nor do we have a settled batting line-up, so the fast bowling unit is one area the boys can make mention of. Talking up your fast bowling outfit in India isn't exactly fashionable but is clearly due to our emerging squads minimal track record.

This strategic outlook has value and Peter Siddle's statement highlighted this line of thinking. Attack with an all out pace attack with the back up from the spin department, as well as the part-timers in Clarke, Maxwell, Warner and Smith.

"The best way of attacking India is with whatever your best line-up is," Siddle told reporters at Melbourne airport on Thursday. "The way we've won Test matches for years now has been with our pace and I think that is going to play a big role. But Nathan [Lyon] is going to play a big role at the other end, and his game is going to flourish even more with the pressure we build at our end.
"Combined, we'll do well and definitely be able to take 20 wickets. We're strong, we've got a good set of quicks going over and we've got good back-up for Nathan over there with spin."

It certainly isn't doom and gloom for the Baggy Greens, far from it. If anything the concerned undertones are most likely as a result of a side that has many players of perceived "potential and skill" and a relatively unknown sense of unity.

The good news is Watto and Clarkey have sound experience in India and while Watto makes his return to Test cricket with a wave of self-confidence, we know the sublime excellence of our skipper with the bat.

Phillip Hughes has done something no player has done in years and that is to work towards a goal, grab the opportunity and stamp it with everything he had to offer to fight his way into our side with pride. He is fast becoming a competent number 3 batsman and his Test return will call on valuable input and determination with his first tour to India.

Ed Cowan and David Warner have started to find a connection, slowly but surely.
Both have recognisable skill sets that will hopefully prove to be enough to protect our middle order in the majority of the contests. Both batsmen will be targeted by spin possibly early on and this would raise the alarm!

A fast bowling outfit of Johnson, Pattinson, Starc, Siddle and Bird leaves me with few worries but their bodies will be put on the line with the heat, humidity and concerns of past frailties.

The key will be how well Nathan Lyon and/or Xavier Doherty will compliment them and find ways to plug out wickets should our fast bowlers keel over at any stage. It was something well noted that Lyon struggled to do against South Africa but taking him to India is wonderful for his continued development. This is the time to make it count!

We have new blood in Khawaja, Smith, Maxwell and Henriques who can hold their own at State level but the head to head against India will be a matter of combat that only time will tell. Most would say they're walking wickets but until they've lived the battle in the middle we won't know enough.

All in all, while we collectively have good batsmen, the majority have been identified as men who struggle against spin within Australia. This is a warning sound for what is to come and recent history indicates spin has remained as important as ever in India, despite the findings of how many top wicket takers in India's Ranji Trophy have not been spin bowlers.

In the Test series against England, of the 110 wickets that fell 82 of these were to spinners (full and part-time) with the top takings going to Graeme Swann (20), Pragyan Ojha (20), Monty Panesar (17) and Ravichandran Aswin (14). Just a small indicator of the role that spin played.

With an eye on the most recent Test series completed in India, Nathan Lyon is opting for two spinners to play at once if the opportunity is present based on what he watched during the India versus England series. His outlook may be a slight variation to that of Siddle's but either way it makes for an exciting prospect as to whether it will be a front line fast bowling attack with one spinner or two spinners complemented by the best fast bowlers for the job.

What are your thoughts ahead of the Test series?

Australian Test Squad for the Border-Gavaskar series:

David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Johnson, Matthew Wade (wicket keeper), James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Lyon,
Ashton Agar. 

*Indian Squad for the 1st Test:

MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda

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Daryl said...

Great summary of the challenges ahead for the Aussie squad! I'd be interested to know your starting 11 and a prediction for the series.

Mine would be: Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Clarke, Watson, Wade, Maxwell, Siddle, Starc, Pattinson, Lyon.

Result: 2-1 to the Aussies!!

Ian said...

Hi Daryl,

Good to read another comment mate.

To be honest I think a lot regarding the starting XI will be based upon the pitch appearance and reported conditions the evening before the game.

Bowling wise that is likely the best way to go, but I would twisted to looking Mitchell Johnson.

Test cricket will always be harsh on Mitch with his inconsistency being hammered by the game, however his track record in India is quite impressive and he may be able to get something out of an otherwise nothing surface.

My result....4-0 haha.

Sylvester said...

Will be an interesting series, haven't seen the new Indian players in action yet.

Lyon really does need wickets in India, I have been happy to defend him for his lack of wickets in Aus due to the pitches but will be much harder to do in India.

Who comes in for Hussey will be the big talking point.

Daryl said...

I was seriously considering Mitchell Johnson too. Mitch is a handful when he gets it right and it's been great to see him do well in the one dayers against the Windies.

Hopefully he gets a run and unsettles the Indians with accuracy and bounce.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ian.

After the warm-ups I won't be at all surprised to see Henriques in the team.

I'm a bit bereft of ideas as to what would be the best attack. It all feels like the Aussies have entered a new world, but it usually feels like this on tours to India - it's the perennial problem of our lack of top-notch spin bowling.

Ian said...

Hi Lou,

And indeed you're gut feeling serves you well.
Moises is in the side!

A good call and most of all I am pleased Nathan Lyon will lead the spin bowling department.

Looking forward to the clash now.