Chennai: Before leaving the shores of Australia in his bid to conquer the Last Frontier in 2001, Steve Waugh had tried drilling into the minds of his band of Invincibles some facets that were believed to be essential for achieving success in India.
The Aussies no doubt have tried living by the motto of being positive, self-assured and aggressive, exhibiting the strongest body language and flaunting the most intimidating aura around themselves. Not always did it work in their favour though.
If the build-up to the current series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has been muted — no talk of chin music or war of words — the Aussies tried to go one-up in the battle of mind games by announcing their playing XI 48 hours before the first ball was bowled.
Michael Clarke, however, dismissed talk of any motive behind the decision. “There’s no mind games involved,” the Australian captain said on Thursday.
“The main reason was that we have a big squad and I wanted everybody to know the team we have selected for the first Test. The second reason is that Moises Henriques is making his debut and if he wants to have his family to come to India to watch the match, it is an opportunity as well.”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s wish for a slow turner has been duly granted at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium prompting Clarke to quip, “It is impossible to cut any more grass on the wicket because there is none.”
The dry and low nature of the wicket is sure to have prompted the Indians to announce Harbhajan Singh’s 100th Test cap a day ahead! Add to it the psychological factor of facing up to the off-spinner, which is sure to weigh upon the inexperienced Australian batting line-up.
Only two players, besides Clarke, from the current XI have played a Test in India — Shane Watson and Peter Siddle.
Harbhajan, who by his own admission has mellowed down with age since the days of Monkeygate, tried to whip up the frenzy by reiterating that India had the chance to win 4-0.
“If we play well and stick to the basics, it is very hard to beat us in India, though we didn’t win the last series here... This is an opportunity to show what we are. Why I said we could beat them 4-0 is because if we believe we can do it, we will work towards itů You’ve got to believe in yourself to make things happen...” he explained.
If Harbhajan is India’s trump card, Sachin Tendulkar’s form in the domestic circuit could well mean bad omen for the Australians. He has looked in ominous touch at nets and the sight of the men from Down Under is sure to stoke his instincts.
The recent records of the two teams are vastly contrasting. While India have lost 10 and won only five of their last 17 Tests, the Australians have won 10 and lost two of their last 15.
Like their Australian counterparts, the Indian team management hasn’t been generous in naming the XI. It is however learnt that Murali Vijay is likely to open with Virender Sehwag with Harbhajan partnering Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ravindra Jadeja’s availability means the option of a left-arm spinner in the XI and Pragyan Ojha will have to sit out in the circumstances. It’s unusual for a team to go into a Test with four spinners.
Ishant Sharma is a certainty, though he was rested during the match-eve practice session. That will mean a toss up between Ashok Dinda and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the second pacer’s slot with the conditions unlikely to favour the latter’s penchant for swing.
The presence of four pacers (including Henriques) in the Australian XI means that they will look to replicate James Anderson’s deeds in their very own Australian way.
“Personally, I think we have covered all bases. India’s team will be a lot different to ours, but I think we have gone with our strengths and we’re backing thatů When the wicket does deteriorate here, not only will it spin more, it will go up and down more, and we think reverse swing will play a part as well,” hoped Clarke.
Both Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border showed up in good spirits during the shooting of a promo for the series on Thursday afternoon. Hope the players enjoy the same bonhomie and camaraderie!
India (likely): Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Ashok Dinda.
Australia: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Matthew Wade, Moises Henriques, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon.
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena, Marias Erasmus. TV: Vineet Kulkarni.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Match starts: 9.30 am.