India, Australia renew Test-rivalry sans legends

Chennai, Feb 21 (IANS) The Border-Gavaskar Trophy will get a new meaning Friday as India take on Australia here with many of the big names, who dominated the sport in the last decade, having retired in the last couple of years.

With no Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Michael Hussey this time around, India and Australia will lock horns in the first of the four-match Test series here at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.

Both the teams are going through a transition phase. India have suffered 10 defeats in 17 Tests while Australia have suffered just two losses in their last 15 Tests. It seems, Australia are transitioning fine while Indian are still struggling.

But, India offers a completely different challenge to Australia. India-Australia Test series by all means has become of the fiercely fought contests in world series and lost is at stake for both the teams.

Australia are currently ranked third in the ICC Test rankings and leads fifth-ranked India by 12 ratings points. However, this could potentially change, depending how the series pans out.

In the two practice matches Australia played against India A and Indian Board President's XI, the visitors struggled heavily against spin bowling. They will have a tough task against the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh.

The Chennai Test will also be the 100th Test for Harbhajan, who also made a name for himself being in the epic 2000-01 series between the two sides where he was named as the Man of the Series.

India would also like to avenge humiliation of a 0-4 whitewash they suffered in Australia last year. Virat Kohli was the only bright spot in that series and this time around he will have a loads of responsibilities on his shoulder.

This could also be Sachin Tendulkar's last series against Australia so he will be looking to get some runs which he failed to do so in the last few series'.

It will also be a Test for opening batsman Virender Sehwag, who was dropped from the One-Day International (ODI) squad recently. H may have a new partner in either Shikhar Dhawan or Murali Vijay in the absence of Gautam Gambhir, who has been dropped for the first two matches against Australia after a string of poor performances.

Australia will be going in a radical bowling attack with four seamers. The last four-man pace attack to win a Test series in India was South Africa 2000: with a combination of Donald, Pollock, Kallis with Cronje/Klusener/Hayward and Nicky Boje in support.

As Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Moises Henriques try to bear up to the load of bowling in India, they will reveal much about India's batting too. Nathan Lyon will be the only spinner targeting the Indian batsmen.

Australia: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Matthew Wade, Moises Henriques, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon. 12th man: Glenn Maxwell.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, R. Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Murali Vijay, Ishant Sharma.

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