In cricket, as in life, it does not take a lot of time for things to turnaround. Last year, when the Indians were in Australia, they couldn’t do a thing right, and kept going from bad to worse as the series progressed. It did not help that internal issues within the team surfaced, as it often happens when a side gets on a losing spree. What Australia did very well in that series was to never allow the beleaguered Indians any breathing space. The foot is on the other pedal now, and even though there has been no ‘revenge series’ build up like the silly prelude to the England Tests, India would be keen to avenge their 4-0 drubbing for sure.
What remains to be seen is how desperate the Indians are to outplay Australia now that they are in the safe zone – they cannot lose the series from here onwards. These are opportunities that Australia have traditionally seized with both hands. Can India do the same? Whether they have the aptitude to keep up their levels of intensity is the big question. Often in the past India have been satisfied with early success in a tough series and have displayed a tendency to taper off. Considering all that the team has been through in England and Australia, they must ideally be upbeat to do the same to their opponents. They failed to do so against England, but have a great chance against the weak Aussies.
India have everything going for them heading into the Mohali clash. If anything, one of the opening spots remains a concern, With Virender Sehwag being axed from the side, Shikhar Dhawan is most likely to step into his shoes for the third Test. It would be interesting to see whether he has improved on his game from the last time he played for the country, in ODIs. Murali Vijay’s big century at Hyderabad was a big plus for the team for sure, but his consistency would be on trial at Mohali. Australia could still trouble India if they get a couple of quick wickets; hence it is essential that Vijay doesn’t get complacent.
Among the others, Cheteshwar Pujara would like to continue piling on the runs. His penchant for big scores has come as a massive relief for India, coming closely on the heels of Rahul Dravid’s retirement. The Saurashtra batsman has, in a short span of time, become the team’s most pivotal batsman. Sachin Tendulkar did get a much needed half-century at Chennai, but failed in his only innings at Hyderabad. Considering his poor string of scores in recent times, he must be looking forward to a big innings. India must guard against a lower-order collapse which saw them lose wickets in a heap at Hyderabad. Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni will have key roles to play in this aspect.
Bowling wise, with the pitch at Mohali expected to aid the faster men a bit more, Ishant Sharma could finally come into play. The spinners, meanwhile, would be confident of continuing their good run. Overall, India will have only themselves to blame if they fail to put it across the Aussie at Mohali.
--By A Cricket Analyst