India eye a clean sweep

New Delhi: Ever since they made their international debut, a Test in 1932, the Indian team have gone through a lot of ups and downs. While some of their defeats disappointed the fans, the three World titles in the limited overs version will forever remain etched in our memories.

The Test match against Australia, beginning Friday at the Kotla, would provide India an opportunity to add another feather to their cap. A victory here would help the hosts chalk out a 4-0 clean sweep for the first time in their Test history.

India's best series win so far had been a 3-0 victory against England in 1993 in a three-match series. Then in 1994, India whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 .

Though the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) officials remained sceptical about ticket sales, there is every possibility about India achieving this rare target in the fourth and final Test of the series.

In Australian captain Michael Clarke's own admission, the home team played better than the Aussies in all departments of the game. There is little reason to feel that visitors would be able to buck the trend at the Kotla.

Australia's problems are aplenty. They have lost all three Tests so far, struggled to overcome disciplinary issues within the squad, and finally, are not yet sure whether their skipper and arguably their best batsman, Michael Clarke, would be able to play this Test.

Clarke, himself was not ready to commit on his fitness. Just like Wednesday, the Aussie captain skipped nets but didn't entirely rule out the possibility of playing.

"I have another 24 hours... So I will make sure that I do everything today to get my treatment right and then I will see how I feel like in the morning… fingers crossed," was what Clarke had to say.

In case Clarke doesn't play, the captaincy would automatically go to vice-captain Shane Watson. Barred from the previous Test on disciplinary grounds and also because he had to return home for the birth of his son, it would definitely be a dramatic elevation for Watson. He spent long time at nets on Thursday.

India, on the other hand, have been on a cruise and preparing to inflict yet another defeat on their hapless rivals, who are all at sea against the spinners. Even pace bowler Ishant Sharma ridiculed Australia's inability to play spin bowling.

"When we went to Australia, everyone talked about our weakness against pace bowling. Now the Australians are here and they are struggling to cope up with spin," Ishant said.

The fans in Delhi, however, would be disappointed because of the absence of new batting sensation Shikhar Dhawan. A local boy, Dhawan is injured and his place is likely to be taken by Cheteshwar Pujara.

On Wednesday, during nets, Pujara was the first to bat with Murali Vijay giving enough indication on the team management's thoughts on the batting order. It was, however, not clear till late in the afternoon whether Ajinkya Rahane or Suresh Raina would take Pujara's place in the middle order.

Asked after practice Ishant said: "There hasn't been any discussion on that yet."

Both Rahane and Raina practised at nets for a long period. Apart from batting, Raina also bowled for a while. He was also seen talking to coach Duncan Fletcher.

The Aussies, though, are not losing hope. Clarke said they would do everything to sign off on a positive note . "We will look to sign off with a win. If we play to our potential, if we play our best cricket, I have no doubt that we can win this Test match. We will look to get a result in our favour," Clarke said.


India (likely): Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane/Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma.

Australia (from): David Warner, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, Moises Henriques, Matthew Wade/Brad Haddin, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Aleem Dar. TV: S. Ravi.

Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

Match starts: 9.30 am.


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