Australia's pace attack a threat to India's hopes

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 04, 2013 09:30 hrs

Australia have not won a Test in India since getting the better of the hosts at Nagpur in October 2004. Since then they have played seven matches in this country, lost five and drawn two. They have been defeated in the last two contests in India in 2008 and 2010 by 2-0 margins. 

All this does not augur well for the Aussies as they prepare to tour this country for a four-Test series later this month. It must also not be forgotten that the series victory in 2004 was their first in India since 1969.
As if all this is not enough the touring squad as announced inspires little confidence. Thanks to retirements and injuries the side is not the strongest that can be fielded by Australia. The selectors really faced an unenviable task following the retirement of Mike Hussey and injuries to Andrew McDonald, Jon Holland, Michael Beer, Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris all of whom were candidates for selection. 

There is a distinct lack of quality which has left the selectors to go in for quantity in a bid to cover all bases. David Warner for example has been named but at the moment must be in doubt to make the trip after suffering a fractured thumb courtesy Mitchell Johnson while practising at the nets.

Shane Watson is unlikely to bowl as he tries to win his spurs as a batsman alone. There are also a host of uncapped players and cricketers with an inconsistent record in the squad and it is clear that too much depends on too few players.
Under the circumstances skipper Michael Clarke, Watson, Warner (if declared fit) and Mathew Wade will probably have to shore up the batting while the spin bowling department doesn't look like it can worry the Indians. It is only in the pace bowling department that Australia are well served. 

In Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird they have a quintet who can cause more than a bit of bother to Dhoni and his men. They may require the cushion of some runs on the board but will be encouraged by the fact that Australian fast bowlers have fared well in India as evidenced by the deeds of Ray Lindwall, Alan Davidson, Graham McKenzie, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath.
The Aussies also cannot draw much solace from their most recent home record. They went down to South Africa and they cannot take much encouragement from their 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka given the islanders' woeful record in Tests 'Down Under'.
A couple of comforting thoughts however for the Aussies will be that they walloped India 4-0 'Down Under' just over a year ago and England have just won a Test series in India, their first in 28 years. Clarke's way of thinking could well be that if the Englishmen could do it why not we? 

After all Australia are third in the ICC rankings, just a point below England while India are in fifth place. But as the cricketing world is well aware India at home constitute formidable opposition, the loss to England notwithstanding. Moreover the England team looks much more balanced when placed alongside the Aussie squad. They are much stronger in batting and spin bowling though Australia can match them in the pace bowling department.
The presence of players such as Usman Khawaja, Xavier Doherty, Steve Smith, Moses Henriques and Glenn Maxwell is unlikely to give the Indian cricketers sleepless nights. Against the Indian batsmen, Nathan Lyon could at best be steady without being penetrative while Philip Hughes and Ed Cowan could have a testing time at the top of the order.
With all this it must be stated that the Indians must put their house in order to succeed. Dhoni and his men can take comfort from their recent impressive record against the Aussies at home but the mistakes they made against the Englishmen must not be repeated. 

For a start there should be no squabbling over preparation of pitches. The team should be an ideal blend of youth and experience and there are a plethora of players with these qualities. Non-performing cricketers should be shown the door however senior or seemingly established they might appear to be. The attack should have a proper balance of pace and spin for both these modes of bowling will be needed to get the better of the Aussies.
The Indians cannot afford to be over confident. There are no more dangerous opponents in international cricket than an under rated Aussie side. In this regard Harbhajan Singh's boast of defeating the visitors by a 4-0 margin should not be taken seriously. There have been innumerable instances over the years about an Aussie side termed 'weak' and 'emaciated' turning the tables on opponents. 

India are the better team, they have an enviable home record against the Aussies but Dhoni and his men will still have to play their best cricket to get the better of them. Under the circumstances the unexpected loss to England could be just the jolt the hosts need to raise the level of their game against opponents they cannot afford to underestimate. One reverse at home was bad enough; a second would be a disaster. 

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