Forget revenge, Team India has a lot of work to do
So while Team India going for a series win against Australia can be construed as 'positive mindset', hopes of a revenge result, a 4-0 whitewash, might just boomerang, says Bikash Mohapatra.
Revenge is a dirty word!
Soon after Team India, having gone in as the favourites, were drubbed 4-0 by hosts England in 2011, Gautam Gambhir, typifying the 'fake arrogance' that defines Indian cricketers these days – thanks to the domination by the national board in world cricket – declared that his side will return the favour in a year's time.
When England came calling last year, Team India had everything going in its favour, a full-strength friendly wickets, a partisan crowd et al and an early lead to boot – courtesy a comprehensive win in the opening Test in Motera. Moreover, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni demanded (and secured) a turning track for the second Test in Mumbai, included three spinners in the playing XI and also had luck on his side when it came to the coin.
However, the complacency that crept in as a result ensured England ample time to regroup and give the hosts a taste of their own medicine – their batsmen (led by the incredible Kevin Pietersen) dominating on a difficult wicket and their spinners doing, well what the Indian spinners were meant to do.
England went on to win that Test as well as the following one at the Eden Gardens to pocket the series 2-1 – the first time they beaten India in India in about 35 years. It was India's first defeat in a Test series on home soil since Australia had bested them in 2004, and an abject humiliation at that.
Hopes of 'revenge' had backfired.
Image: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with coach Duncan Fletcher
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
An encore by Michael Clarke's men cannot be ruled out
Even before the Aussies had landed for the series we are discussing here, the loquacious Harbhajan Singh, till that point not even certain of his place in the final 15, did a Gambhir – who by the way has been dropped for the first two Tests - by claiming a 4-0 win is a possibility.
It is imperative here to mention that Team India had been thrashed by the same margin when they visited Down Under in 2011-12, soon after the debacle in England.
Now that Alastair Cook's side came to India last year and did the unthinkable, an encore by Michael Clarke's men cannot be ruled out.
It is true that going by present form Australia is a lesser team that England. Save Clarke, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and a couple of others, most of the squad haven't played in Indian conditions in the longer format – the Indian Premier League is anything but helpful in this regard.
Image: The Australian cricket team
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Australia's batting is relatively inexperienced
Their batting is relatively inexperienced, with the likes of Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khwaja having played much less of Test cricket than their Indian counterparts. The retirement of veterans Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey has robbed them of the experience that could have benefitted them considerably.
Moreover, their spin attack isn't much to write about. The likes of Xavier Doherty, Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell aren't in the same class as Graeme Swann, or for that matter Monty Panesar.
However, what Australia do possess is a great pace attack – Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson. Considering the fact that Team India has been traditionally susceptible against fast bowling – James Anderson and gang providing a more recent example, Australia has considerable advantage in that aspect.
Image: Usman Khawaja (left) with Glenn Maxwell
Photographs: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
England proved India can be beaten at home
Also, England and more recently Pakistan – even if it was an ODI series – have in recent times proved Team India can be beaten at home, something that the Aussies can take a clue from.
Add to it the fact that their captain has been among the runs ever since he donned the hat and it augurs well for the team. Remember how Clarke almost single-handedly forced the Indian bowlers to submission Down Under last year?
A performing captain is palpably a bigger inspiration to his team than an underperforming one. And Dhoni's Test performance in recent years is not something to boast about.
Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images
India's batting now happens to be its biggest weakness
What compounds Team India's problems is the fact that its batting, traditionally its strength, now happens to be its biggest weakness. As a result, the usual strategy of putting up a huge score and letting the spinners take over thereafter – used successfully by Team India on home conditions over the years – is no more a reliable one.
The much-vaunted Indian batting line-up happens to be a strong one, but only on paper. The reality is something that fans may find it difficult to accept. Both Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag haven't scored a Test hundred in a long time, Virat Kohli's form has suffered a dip and Gambhir (as mentioned above) has been dropped following prolonged failure.
The team can no more boast the experience and consistency of either a Rahul Dravid or a VVS Laxman, both having retired last year, and the only batsman who has shown some consistency in recent times -- Cheteshhwar Pujara -- isn't experienced enough to shoulder the entire responsibility all by himself.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar is bowled by James Pattinson of Australia during day one of the second Test in Sydney in January last year
Photographs: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
The Indian spinners aren't intimidating any more
Moreover, the Indian spinners aren't intimidating any more. R Ashwin is more about hype (than substance), Pragyan Ojha becoming increasingly predictable and Harbhajan, we all know, hasn't been able to take up the role of the lead bowler, his reputation having taken a beating after the retirement of the legendary Anil Kumble.
All these factors essentially mean even if Australia isn't as strong a side as England, Team India has many problems of its own. There are many areas that need to be addressed if the team has to regain its home advantage.
So while going for a series win against the Aussies can be construed as 'positive mindset', hopes of a revenge win, a 4-0 whitewash (apologies to you Harbhajan), might just backfire, or shall we say boomerang, on Team India.
Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images