India, March 2 -- Much like captain Cook's marathon innings in the first Test at Motera, which outlined and steered the course of the entire Test series for England, captain Dhoni's scintillating double hundred against the Australians in the first Test at Chennai is also anticipated to have the same impact on this series.
After two-and-a-half days of play, there was little that could separate the two sides, before Dhoni walked in and changed the balance. By the beginning of the third day, the ball had started turning viciously. Had Australia taken a couple of more wickets, they would've managed a sizeable lead, which is where lay their best chances of winning the Test. Dhoni's counterattacking innings took the visitors by surprise and also marred their spirits beyond repair.
Post Dhoni's belligerence and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's defiance with the bat, the Indian spinners finished the formalities with Ashwin being the pick of the bowlers, once again.
While Ashwin was the pick of Indian bowlers, Harbhajan didn't look the man who'd taken over 400 Test wickets and the one playing his 100th Test. Apart from Harbhajan's form, the form of India's two openers also remain an area of concern. While they'll get another opportunity to redeem themselves in Hyderabad, it might be one of the last few opportunities that are likely to come their way.
With regards to the Australians, as expected, their ability to counter the Indian spinners on a turning pitch and their only spinner, Nathan Lyon's ability to trouble the Indian batsman was thoroughly tested in Chennai. While Clarke and Henriques responded well to the challenge, others were found wanting. Now, just like England did after Motera, Australia is also likely to play two spinners instead of a pace-heavy attack.
Though, unfortunately for Australia, they don't have a Swann in the XI and Panesar waiting in the wings. Doherty is likely to get a game but it's rather ambitious to believe that Lyon and Doherty will be able to do in Hyderabad what Swann and Panesar did in Mumbai.
There's been a serious intent shown by the Australians to be aggressive against the Indian spinners, but they will do well to realise that aggression alone won't see them through on these pitches; they would need the skill-set too.
Unless Cowan or Hughes play the part Cook and Clarke played or Watson does a Pietersen, I'm not too optimistic about Australia's chances in the second Test match too.
(The writer is former India Test player)
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.