Pride in their rich legacy should be motivation enough for the baggy greens at the Kotla

Empty seats reflect the lack of interest among the fans. They also indicate the mediocrity of the fare. Is Australia to be blamed for the quality of cricket in the on-going series? To a large extent, yes, but that should not take away any credit from the India’s performance.

For Allan Border, now a commentator, and Rodney Marsh, one of Australia’s national selectors who is here, the anguish must be profound. They played their cricket with pride and authority, and now watch from the sidelines their team slide to these depths.

Rarely has Australia looked so out of place, so battered.

“They don’t have the batsmen to play spinners, and spinners to take wickets here. I don’t want to rate the side, but having seen the Aussies since 1996, I think this team is the worst-performing on Indian soil,” said former India captain Sourav Ganguly the other day.

Ganguly was obviously shocked at the decline of what was once a cricketing super power. It is merely a middle-of-the-field team now.

Three World Cups in a row and dominance in Test cricket had established Australia as a role model. Coaching manuals from down under were the most sought after and adopted by not just fledgling teams but India too. The Australian module of training and its cricket structure was believed to be the best in the world.

The cricket structure continues to be the best. Just that Australia’s supply line has dried up and the lack of talent has shocked the cricketing world. The team has lost many supporters and, back home, has become a butt of jokes. Sad for a team that was once the team to beat!

The loss of form has been collective and alarming. Michael Clarke has stood class apart even though David Warner, Ed Cowan, Moises Henriques and Mitchell Starc have come up with scattered excellence.

Australia’s problems have been multiple. Nothing has worked for them.

Ed Cowan, with an aggregate of 203 runs in the series, summed up his team’s sorry tale well.

“It is important to know that only four guys in the team have played in India before this tour…you face a lot of spin over here and the conditions suit spinners; at home you don’t face many spinners and the conditions don’t suit the spinners,” he said.

“I think we played spin a lot better in Mohali than in Hyderabad. If we are adding to that knowledge bank, something can come of it.”

Critics have compared the current team to the one that toured India in 1979 under Kim Hughes. Clarke’s squad has been termed by many as the weakest to have played in India.

“Weakest, I wouldn’t say. But inexperienced, yes. Perhaps this is the most inexperienced Australian team to have come to India. It is the inexperience which is going against them,” Sunil Gavaskar has been quoted as saying.

“The wickets we have played on have been beautiful batting wickets if you can get in. But the big question is if you can get in,” Cowan admitted.

The batsmen have looked technically flawed, with even Clarke unable to read a rookie like Ravindra Jadeja, who has 17 wickets to his credit.

As hinted by Gavaskar, the biggest challenge, apart from inexperience and lack of form, has been the inability to come to terms with the playing conditions in India.

There is little time to ponder now. Clarke, if he plays, or Shane Watson, if he leads, will have a legacy to fall back on and, needless to add, the essential motivation to leave India with a smile.

This article has been edited to correct a factual error.

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