At the end of the 1st Test of the ongoing India Vs Australia series, we posted on the Positives and Negatives to come out of that match. We allocated 5 points each to The Result, Overall Bowling, Overall Batting, Fielding & Intensity, and, Leadership. The 1st Test score was India-13, Australia-12. In our view, Australia got nothing from the 2nd Test at Mohali and the score there reads India 25, Australia-0. The 2nd Test at Mohali was, indeed, a rout of Australia by India in every sense of the word.
That Australia was wounded badly in that match was clear. Ponting said as much in his post-match interview, when he admitted that India had out-batted, out-bowled, out-fielded and out-thought Australia.
And it is when champion teams are wounded that they bounce back strongly. India bounced back from the depths of Sydney to claim victory at Perth; Australia’s “home ground”. Similarly, I expect Australia to bounce back from the depths of Mohali. The next five days will show us whether or not Australia will claim victory at Kotla, India’s “home ground”. I will not be surprised, though, if Australia claim victory here at Delhi.
Unlike popular perceptions, the Kotla pitch is seam-friendly. The ball does seam around a bit at Kotla especially in the mornings. I remember Sourav Ganguly making the ball “talk” in the match last year against Pakistan — Anil Kumble’s first match as India captain. So, Stuart Clark can be quite a handful in my opinion.
In that match against Pakistan, Zaheer Khan and Ganguly were amongst the wickets. Shoaib Akhtar and Sohail Tanveer also got a few wickets in that match. What I remember most was the slow turn and the low bounce. Most pitches in India are changing in their complexion — an unfortunate trend, in my view. There is a sameness about it all.
So I will not be surprised if seam bowling has a big say in this Test match. However, the Australians have been practicing early reverse swing in the intervening period. I feel that traditional seam will have more of a say at Kotla rather than Irish!
Australia will bring in Stuart Clark for Peter Siddle. Other than that, I do not see many changes. There may have been a temptation to play Jason Krejza. However, I am not sure Australia will want to risk that untried option. If Krejza is given a go, it will have to be at the expense of Cameron White.
For India, Anil Kumble will come in for Amit Mishra. If Harbhajan Singh is still injured, Amit Mishra will stay on in the team, although I’d prefer Munaf Patel to play! Yes, I know Kotla turns square and so on. But I seriously think that nagging pace can be as effective on this low-bounce early-seam pitch as spin can. Moreover, in Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag, there are spin options already! However, I suspect that Amit Mishra will play if Harbhajan Singh is injured.
I don’t believe that the toss will play as major a role as people are predicting either. In the game played last year against Pakistan, Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat and was 142-8 before you could say boo! India won the game in the end!
India will want to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Delhi. India will not want to go to the 4th Test at Nagpur on 1-0 or 1-1. India would want to go into the last Test in much the same vein as Australia has — dead-rubbering the last match of a series! For that to happen, India will need to play bold and yet, careful cricket over the next 5 days. Especially since Australia will come out gunning for India.
Either way, this looks set to be a cracker of a game.