The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Dileep Premachan­dran

In The End of the Af­fair, Gra­ham Greene wrote: “Pain is easy to write. In pain we’re all hap­pily in­di­vid­ual. But what can one write about hap­pi­ness?” You could sub­sti­tute ‘fail­ure’ for pain, and ‘suc­cess’ for hap­pi­ness, and the sen­tence would still make per­fect sense. Each time In­dia lose, a thou­sand col­umns and shows bloom, each com­pet­ing with the other to iden­tify mu­jrims [cul­prits]. When the team wins, as they so of­ten have in the Test are­naover­thep­asttwosea­sons,there are only so many songs of praise one can sing.

Even play­ers and coaches can get tired of talk­ing about it, of how they keep com­pla­cency at bay and eyes on the road ahead. Suc­cess­ful sides are even less in­clined to fo­cus too much time and en­ergy on the op­po­si­tion. Such has been the ri­valry be­tween In­dia and Aus­tralia in the new mil­len­nium that it was only nat­u­ral that AnilKum­ble­would­face­sev­er­alques­tions about the men in baggy green.

In the 21st cen­tury, Aus­tralia have won 112 Tests and lost 45. They have dom­i­nated ev­ery op­po­nent – ex­cept In­dia, who lead the head-to-head 1312. “Over­all, they’re a good side,” said Kum­ble, try­ing not to damn Steven Smith’steamwith­faint praise.“They have some good bowlers, bat­ters. The ap­proach that they tend to take is ag­gres­sive, so that’s some­thing that we’re aware of. We will put to­gether strate­gies that can counter that.”

Each po­ten­tial banana skin this home­sea­son­has­been­nego­ti­at­ed­with some aplomb, and de­spite the visi­tors’ abysmal­recordinthe­sep­a­rtsover­the past decade, Kum­ble and his wards aren’t likely to drop their guard. “We re­spect ev­ery op­po­si­tion,” he said. “We spoke about this even be­fore the New Zealand se­ries started, and later even Eng­land was the most chal­leng­ing. Bangladesh played ex­tremely well as well. In terms of how we want topre­pare,we’ve­beeninthebest­mode and the re­sults have also gone in our favour. All the play­ers who are in the squad have had good runs, whether with the bat or ball. I don’t think we need to at­tach any other sig­nif­i­cance to the se­ries other than to look at our­selves and tick all those boxes that we’ve been do­ing over the last six to eight months.”

With just three spe­cial­ist pace bowlers, and Mitchell Marsh, in the squad, this is a spin-heavy squad that Aus­tralia have brought to In­dia. Kum­ble wouldn’t be drawn into mak­ing com­par­isons with the past – not that the great Shane Warne thrived in In­dia ei­ther – but he did take pains to point out that In­dia’s suc­cesses this sea­son had come on per­fectly good pitches. The old-fash­ioned dust­bowl hasn’t even been glimpsed.

“We keep coun­ter­ing these type of ques­tions at the start of the se­ries or match, say­ing how is the pitch and what do you think about the toss. If you look back at the nine Tests that we’ve played at home, each one has had its own chal­lenges. We’ve played at venues where Test cricket hasn’t been played be­fore.

“In that sense, this team is ca­pa­ble ofad­justin­gan­dadapt­ing­towhat­ever chal­lenges come up. I’m re­ally sat­is­fied with the way things have gone. On the last day of the Test match in Chennai, I don’t think many gave In­dia a chance to win the Test, let alone af­ter Eng­land scored al­most 500 runs in the first in­nings. Even in Mumbai, it was a sim­i­lar case, where we lost the toss and they put 400 runs and we won by an in­nings.

“That’s the beauty about this team. Even in Kolkata where we played New Zealand, [it was] very dif­fer­ent con­di­tions where the seam­ers came into the pic­ture. We had an­swers to all those ques­tions. That’s what you want from a cham­pion team, and that’s ex­actly what we’re try­ing to build to­wards.”

On the sub­ject of build­ing for the fu­ture, In­dia con­tinue to keep a large squad to­gether, rather than bank­ing on 13 or 14. “We want op­tions for any even­tu­al­ity,” said Kum­ble. “We’ve had some in­juries in the past, which have been be­fore or on the day of the match. We want to keep the team to­gether and then build on this. Be­cause this is the same set of play­ers, with maybe one or two [oth­ers] here and there, that will be part of In­dian cricket’s Test arena for a long time.”

The­un­beat­en­run­now­stand­sat19. But rather than bask in any glory, re­flected or other­wise, Kum­ble will in­sist that his charges start this se­ries with the slate wiped clean. “We cer­tainly take one game at a time,” he said. “All those matches that we have played and all those sit­u­a­tions that we were in, each one has come up and found a so­lu­tion. Be it the top or­der or the lower or­der, the con­tri­bu­tions have been re­ally good.

“And with the bowl­ing, it’s not just spin­ners, but the faster bowlers as well who have stood up in key mo­ments. That’s what will hold us in good stead. There will be some tough­mo­mentsinthe­series,butI’m sure the squad is ca­pa­ble of com­ing up with so­lu­tions.”

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