History beckons Down Under
India has a good opportunity to beat Australia in a Test series down under, a feat it has never accomplished. While the Australian batting is vulnerable right now and tends to crumble in pressure situations, India has the quality in bowling. Without the mercurial David Warner and the influential Steve Smith, there are huge holes in this Australian lineup — unless their bans for ball tampering during the tour of South Africa earlier this year are dramatically lifted ahead of the fourtest series.
India has to clean up its batting act. Both in South Africa and England, the lineup depended heavily on skipper Virat Kohli. In both these challenging away series, India competed hard but lost key moments since its batting could not come together as a strong, resilient unit.
In the end, only the final scoreline of the series matters. This team, not short of desire, needs to put results on the table against the stronger, nonsubcontinental teams away from home.
Both South Africa and England were able to make early inroads and — Kohli apart — the middle order lacked consistency.
The conditions were demanding both in South Africa and England, and the ball swung, seamed around and bounced. And the footwork of the Indian batsmen — again, save Kohli — came under scrutiny. Gone were the big runs on home soil; this was a different ball game.
Without footwork, a tight game and calculated strokeplay without slipping into a negative mindset, it is hard to combat the moving ball delivered at some pace on such tracks. Playing away from the body, launching into big drives and not covering up for deviation can be fatal when the ball seams around.
And the big names have to deliver. There were some runs from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in England, but their contributions were few and far between. They are key batsmen and need to lift their game. Rahane will have good memories of Australia from the 201415 tour where he cut and pulled with panache.
The pitches in Australia will surely not probe the batsmen’s technique as relentlessly as the ones in South Africa and England did. They will have bounce, but not as much movement off the seam or swing. Strong backfoot play and effective use of horizontal bat shots will be crucial.
The Kookaburra ball should do less too for the pacemen than the Duke — used in England — that has a more prominent seam. But then, the Indian batsmen will have to counter a topnotch Aussie pace lineup of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. All three are fit and firing again.
Starc could be menacing with his leftarmer’s angle, speed and intimidating bounce. He is a strike bowler and an enforcer, and can get the ball to swing into the batsman. Hazlewood will be at the batsmen, pegging around the off stump, giving little away and examining them with his twoway deviation. And the bustling Cummins deliv