Heavy security | Bring back Ojha | Serving spin | Sachin special
Amid heavy security and water-tight bandobast, Australia head into the second Test against India with as much of a demoralizing burden as England went into their Mumbai game last year with. A match down and with the certainty of vile turners to follow: the ends of teams on the subcontinent have always followed a set pattern, a trend that Alastair Cook-led England bucked with élan as they turned things around for a 2-1 series win after having lost the opening encounter.
Australia’s site of resurrection – if that happens at all – will be Hyderabad, where a series of bomb blasts ravaged normal life a few weeks ago. The visitors seek a mandate similar to England’s after a resounding loss at Chepauk. The means at their disposal, however, are not quite the same. In Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, England had two spinners able to hold their own against India’s batsmen. Australia lack a big turner and their only dedicated spinner in the first Test, offie Nathan Lyon, went for over 200 runs in a show devoid of any impact.
Chop and change
The visitors’ trust in opting to play to their strengths – a four-strong pace attack – didn’t have the same effect as India’s contingent of three spinners, who wreaked havoc on a crumbling Chennai pitch with uneven bounce. The track at Hyderabad is expected to follow in the same footsteps; in which case Australia will be seriously considering replacing a fast bowler with either left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty or all-rounder Steve Smith. Neither, though, is in the class of Swann or Panesar.
Clarke has also stated that going in with an unchanged eleven is also an option since he thinks the Hyderabad pitch will have something in it for the fast bowlers.
It can be safely said that it was MS Dhoni’s lightning double-century that took the game away from Australia when things were rather evenly poised. But as much as Dhoni’s innings played a part, the visitors’ own batting was bereft of application.
Aside from the assured Michael Clarke and the fighting debutant Moises Henriques, the entire line up capitulated to slower bowling. Clarke displayed impeccable use of the feet as he stroked a first innings century; Henriques made good his first Test with two valiant fifties, the second of them unbeaten on a disintegrating wicket. None of the others were assured in their dealings with R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and even Harbhajan Singh.
IPL’s million-dollar Glenn Maxwell may get a look-in to boost a flailing middle-order, as might Usman Khawaja, who could serve as a direct replacement of the struggling Phil Hughes. Since Shane Watson is playing purely as a batsman, the onus on him of reviving Australia with Clarke cannot be over-stated.
India for once approach a game slightly better placed that their rivals. Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Dhoni looked in great form in Chennai and their only worry appears to be the continuously failing opening combination. Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay looked miserable in the first game, but Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane may have to wait a while to get a look in, since Dhoni has said in media interactions that he would like to give the Sehwag-Vijay pairing a few more chances.
Another point to deliberate upon would be the inclusion (or exclusion) of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha – whose homeground is Hyderabad – in place of Harbhajan or Jadeja. The off-spinner lost his radar in the first innings and bowled marginally better in the second. Jadeja was consistent, kept up the pressure on batsmen and performed his role of the extra spinner with aplomb; his batting, although it has yet to appear on the international arena, is likely to keep him in the mix.
There is also an outside chance that Dhoni might relinquish a seamer to front a four-pronged spin attack, considering how India’s medium pacers did absolutely nothing in Australia’s second essay at Chennai. In the last Test at Uppal’s Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Ashwin claimed 12 for 85 as India thrashed New Zealand by an innings and 115 runs. Expect more of the same.
The Squads: Australia (from): Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Moises Henriques, Matthew Wade (wk), Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Glenn Maxwell (12th man; India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.