Adelaide Oval offers hope for India to salvage pride
As India and Australia head into the final Test at Adelaide, the visitors can take hope from previous performances at the venue to salvage lost pride, writes Norma Godinho.
Did you follow Australia's showing before the commencement of the ongoing India series? Well, if the answer is no, and you are an Aussie fan, you did not miss much!
The Aussies were all over the place against their trans-Tasman rivals in the series preceding the Indian team's tour. Having thrashed New Zealand by nine wickets in the opening Test in Brisbane, they suffered a severe jolt as the Kiwis extracted sweet revenge in the second Test in Hobart. It was New Zealand's first win on Australian soil in more than two decades and helped them level the series.
Even though Australia went on to retain the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, by virtue of their victory at the Gabba, the defeat in Tasmania was a dampener, considering it came close on the heels of the humiliating loss to South Africa at Newlands, where Michael Clarke's team was dismissed for a paltry 47 in the second innings.
However, a little over a month later, the same Australian squad appears living on some sort of magic potion. With Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey hitting form, and the bowlers doing their job with precision, Australia are staking claim to regaining the No 1 Test ranking.
Image: The Australian team celebrating their series win in Perth last week
Dismal show by Indian batsmen
When a full-strength Indian team embarked on the current tour, a section of the media touted it as the best opportunity to win a Test series Down Under, while some argued that this is Australia's weakest outfit in years. There were some who even said this was the best chance to give the 'Big Three' a memorable farewell.
Memorable, it sure has turned out to be, but for all the wrong reasons!
India lost the first two Tests inside four days, and the loss at Perth, in the third, was even worse. What can be more horrible than losing a Test in two days and a session (and 19 balls)?
India have one last chance to salvage pride, or whatever is left of it, and end the series on a high at Adelaide.
The Adelaide Oval has been Team India's happy hunting ground on the last two tours. In 2003-04 Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar produced quality performances to register a great win and level the series.
On the last tour, in 2007-08, centuries by Sachin Tendulkar's (153 in the first innings) and Virender Sehwag (151 in the second), and fifties by then captain Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, helped India draw the match.Australia also had their share of century-makers in that Test -- Ponting and Clarke scored big hundreds -- but it was the Indians who took the bragging rights after pulling off a draw.
'We are going to have to be at our best to beat them'
Can India come up with an encore at a venue that is said to have conditions closest to home?
Australia captain Michael Clarke expressed caution while saying, 'We know these conditions are probably going to suit India a lot more than where we have come from in Perth, so we are going to have to be at our best to beat them, that is for sure.'
And, going by recent history, the pitch should be great for batting and assist some reverse swing as the days go. There should be something for the spinners too. In fact, stand-in captain Virender Sehwag has hinted at the possibility of going into the match with two spinners, after having a look at the wicket. All these are perfect ingredients that give India hope of finishing the series on a happy note.
The question, though, is: after the mauling in the last three Tests, and the series already decided, can the Indians motivate themselves one last time come Tuesday?
Image: Michael Clarke
Dhoni's captaincy far from inspirational
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy was far from inspirational in the first three Tests. His defensive tactics have been panned across the board. Veterans Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman failed to make decent contributions, while Sachin Tendulkar's ton seems to be weighing on his ageing shoulders.
And what can be said of India's bowling? Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin were hardly effective.
Only Zaheer Khan did his bit and young Umesh Yadav made a mark in the last Test with a five-wicket haul.All these are signs that the tourists will have to play out of their skins in the fourth Test to regain lost pride.
Image: MS Dhoni
Australia's all-round show has helped them shine
But let's not forget the indefatigable Aussies. While it is difficult to tie them down when they are on the wane, it is surely tougher to keep them quiet when they are on a high?
Having convincingly beaten a strong Indian squad (at least on paper) in the Tests, the Aussies are on the path of ascendancy. The No 1 ranking that they want to regain in surely within reach now.
This series has been all about the home side. If it was James Pattinson's bowling in the first Test, Ben Hilfenhaus's bowling and Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey's histrionics with the bat in the second at Sydney, the third Test in Perth was about Peter Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris.Australia's fortunes, on the decline since the retirement of its stars like Shane Warne, Mathew Hayden, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist, are certainly on the ascendant.
Image: James Pattinson
Clarke responsible for Aus turnaround
And the man responsible for the turnaround is none other than the captain. With each encounter on the ongoing tour Clarke has grown in stature. His aggressive captaincy has helped Australia take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four-Test series. Now, he would like to have the last laugh by winning the fourth and final Test in Adelaide that begins on Tuesday.India haven't lost a Test in Adelaide in the last 12 years. Their only victory at the venue was in 2003-04, when faced with a total of 556, they won by four wickets. Will that serve as an inspiration, as India strive to avoid back-to-back away series whitewashes, and also a lift ahead of the ODI tri-series, starting next month?
Image: Michael Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur