The Australian selectors have announced the squad for the four-Test series against India in India, beginning on February 22. On paper, it isn’t a strong-looking side, weakened obviously by the retirements of stalwarts Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. The Aussies would also be aware that they do not have a great record in India of late, having lost their last two Test series’ in the country. At the same time, they should seek inspiration from England’s performance in India on their latest tour. England had a poorer record on the sub-continent as compared to Australia, but took full toll of India’s overall weaknesses. Michael Clarke’s men would also be keen to do the same.
A closer look at the squad, and it is clear that the 17 men chosen mostly comprise of inexperienced but talent players, with only skipper Clarke and a few other players having proven capabilities at the international level. As such, India must start favourites, but the fact is that India are struggling big time, especially in Tests with their veterans not performing and the youngster failing to rise to the occasion. This is where England got the better of India, and the Aussies would look to do the same. The question is whether they have requisite resources.
Captain Clarke, who had an excellent series back at home against the Indians, would have to lead from the front again, especially in the absence of Punter and Hussey. Clarke has fond memories of India, having made his debut over here nine years back. He would be keen to continue his good form in the New Year as well. Among the other experienced hands, opener David Warner and Shane Watson will have to stand up and deliver. The left-handed Warner has come a long way since his T20 days, and has established himself as the country’s number one opener in all formats. A good tour of India would add to his stature. Watson would also like to put behind his injury woes.
The lesser experienced men in the batting department will be on test. India tours have often made or finished careers. In this view, the performance of Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khwaja would be crucial. Cowan and Hughes have done well at home, but they will be challenged in Indianconditions for sure. As for Khwaja, he has thrown away a lot of opportunities to establish himself in the XI, but with the big guns gone, he has another chance to prove his worth. Steven Smith, who has underperformed constantly, will also be under pressure to resurrect his career.
In an attempt to balance the side, Australia have chosen Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques, both of whom have all-round capabilities. But, a T20 or 50-over game is much different from a Test, so it would be interesting to see how they react. As for the bowling, each one of Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddlehave troubled India in the past. Also, it remains to be seen whether Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon can do what Swann and Panesar did to the Indians. How these two spinners perform might well be the clinching factor.
--By A Cricket Analyst