How many times did the West Indies team blank their opponents 4-0 and 5-0 in a Test series when they were at their peak? How many times did the Australian team do the same till recently? You simply can’t count the instances on your fingers.
How many times has India been beaten 0-4? That has also happened plenty of times.
Now, how many times have India blanked a Test team 5-0 or 4-0. Never! That’s something we sorely lack when compared to many teams of the world.
In fact 3-0 has been achieved only twice, by Mohammed Azharuddin against England in 1993 and Sri Lanka in 1994. Even 2-0 has been rare with many Indian captains achieving it only once. Sourav Ganguly did it 3 times, but with the help of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
MS Dhoni’s captaincy on the other hand has been an absolute roller coaster of a ride. On the flip side we lost 0-4 after ages and that too twice. But how many times have we won a series 2-0 after Dhoni took over? The answer is a whopping six times! You have to admit that there is something about Dhoni and 2-0 has been achieved twice against Australia and once against Sri Lanka.
Dhoni came tantalizingly close to making it the second 3-0 against West Indies in 2011. We were leading 2-0 when we went into the final Test and needed just 2 runs off the last ball of the match to make it 3-0. Alas, Ravichandran Ashwin couldn’t hit the match winning shot and the match was a draw.
So now the question is can India continue with its winning run and get our third 3-0 and maybe even our first 4-0? While theoretically Australia can still hit back and make it 2-2, this is one of our best chances to press home our advantage and push for a huge series victory.
After four innings, barring Michael Clarke and Moises Henriques, all the batsman have been totally out of sorts against the Indian spinners. While spinners Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell and Xavier Doherty have all picked up wickets, they have leaked runs against the Indian batsmen.
The Australian fast bowlers have also dominated the Indians in small bursts only and we have generally managed to play all of them well.
Australia will have to do something different to come back in the series. What if they picked all 3 spinners? Of course that is an unlikely scenario as the match is in Mohali which hasn’t seen a very high Test team score for quite some time now. But the curator might be tempted to try to make it more of a spinning track.
But Clarke, who has been in the form of his life, desperately needs to come up the order no matter what is the nature of the pitch. He’s their best chance of holding up the wicket at one end.
The departure of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey seems to have hit the Australian team much greater than the departure of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman has hit the Indian team. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli have both crossed 1000 Test runs and look like great bets for the future. Both have 4 Test centuries each.
As far as India is concerned they will be tempted to stick with their winning combination. Ashwin with 18 wickets and Jadeja with 11 wickets are going great guns.
Harbhajan Singh is way behind and played absolutely no role in Australia’s 131 all out in the second innings in Hyderabad. One would still think that Pragyan Ojha, our top spinner of 2012, should get a chance to replace him.
Virender Sehwag could also be rested and Shikhar Dhawan given a chance in the remaining two Tests. That way the selectors could decide on whether to try Dhawan & Murali Vijay or recall Gautam Gambhir for the tough tour to South Africa.
Ajinkya Rahane also deserves a chance to show what he is made of at the Test level, but that seems unlikely. He may have to sit on the bench for quite some time. Maybe his time will come only when the great Sachin Tendulkar retires.
Dhoni has already emerged as India’s most successful captain with 22 Test wins.
One hopes that he can get us our first 4-0 whitewash!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/