Why This is India’s Best Chance to Come Out on Top, Down Under

Why This is India’s Best Chance to Come Out on Top, Down Under

Cricket

Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Cameraperson: Nitin Chopra

India arrived in Australia for their first-ever tour of the country barely two months after the nation gained independence. A 4-0 drubbing through the Australian summer of 1947/48 featured four sub-100 scores, and two of India’s five lowest Test totals of all time. Over the course of 71 years, the Indian cricket team has contested 10 more Test series Down Under. Series wins? None.

But they’ve touched down on Australian shores this time around knowing there couldn’t be a better chance to end that seemingly unending wait.

They go up against an Australia reduced to a pale shadow of their all-conquering former self, crippled over the past year by the aftermath of the infamous Cape Town ball tampering saga.

India, themselves, may have had a slightly humbling 2018 – flattering to deceive in Test series defeats in both South Africa and England – but they start firm favourites across all formats.

2018: The Year Australia Wish Didn’t Happen

The year had actually begun quite nicely for Australian cricket. They were completing a crushing Ashes win over fabled rivals England, they had a captain in Bradmanesque form, and a fast-bowling line-up possibly the best in the world.

Three months later, everything had changed.

Tampergate came and went, taking along with a long list of casualties: the captain, the vice-captain, the coach and the head of the board (Steven Smith, David Warner, Darren Lehmann and James Sutherland, respectively).

The fall from grace, on the pitch and off it, has been spectacular.

In 21 matches across formats since Tampergate, Australia have recorded just five wins – three of those, have come against either Zimbabwe or UAE.

Away from the field, the administrative side of things has been no better. In terms of exits, Cricket Australia is presently matching Donald Trump’s office.

All this comes six months ahead of a World Cup – one which Australia will still enter as defending champions.

Also Read : 2018: Australia’s Year of Gloom, and ODI Doom

Third Time's the Charm for Kohli and Co?

For India, 2018 began with coach Ravi Shastri’s pronouncement that the next 18 months “will define this Indian cricket team”. Tours to South Africa, England and Australia would lead India towards the 2019 World Cup, in England, and give the world’s top-ranked Test side a chance to correct a rather-blemished past.

Two-thirds of India’s on-the-road 2018 down, there has been little to rejoice about in the longest format.

Under-preparedness in South Africa meant the series was over inside eight days, despite the valiant heroics of Virat Kohli. A few months later in England, despite being more acclimatised to the conditions, the batting – barring the skipper – came woefully undone.

Neither Kohli nor Shastri have taken the criticism received in the wake of both tours too well. But India, still No. 1, are unlikely to be tripped by the same banana peel for the third time in the same year.

The biggest opportunity this time, anyway, lies in the weakness of the opposition. The absence of Smith and Warner in the Australian camp is akin to India being without Kohli.

For long tortured by Aussie quicks on fast tracks, India this time make the trip armed with an arsenal capable of wreaking havoc on the opposite camp. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, together, provide a rare occurrence of India being as equipped, if not more, than Australia’s pace battery.

India Favourites: Across Formats, Across The Board

The Tests only begin in December, and the appetiser comes in the form of the shortest format. Australia have rested pretty much their entire first-choice bowling attack, while India are without ex-captain MS Dhoni. Form, and recent history, points to the T20Is being the most one-sided of all three series.

On their last visit to Australia, India inflicted upon the hosts their first whitewash in any series of three or more matches at home. Counting that 3-0 sweep, India have won 11 and drawn one out of 14 bilateral T20I contests – while winning their last seven in a row.

Also Read : In Stats: Why India Are Favourites Against Australia in T20 Series

The Tests may yet prove to be the tightest of all, with Australia’s pace attack recharged and some in the Indian batting line-up possibly harbouring ghosts of overseas tours past. Still, given the lessons learnt from the trips to South Africa and England, and the relatively flat nature of present-day Australian tracks, India will be left kicking themselves if they are to squander an opportunity to achieve the unprecedented.

The tour-concluding ODIs, in January, can’t be expected to go the other way either – particularly if even one of the two teams carry their form from 2018 into 2019.

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