Cricket test: On India’s tour of Australia

In a coronavirus-blighted year, Indian cricket gets into revival mode through the tour of Australia that formally commences with the first One Day International in Sydney on Friday. The recent Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates, was a high-profile starter that helped national icons and overseas legends shed their rust but international cricket is the real deal. India last played on March 2 at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval. On that day, the second Test against New Zealand concluded with the host winning by seven wickets to secure the series at 2-0. Since then it has been a long wait for sport to resume and while the virus lingers and the vaccine-race gifts hope, cricket is gingerly finding its feet. England hosted the West Indies and Pakistan and had limited-overs clashes against Australia, but in terms of stature, full-fledged contests featuring India and Australia have a stronger allure. Over the next eight weeks, the set of three ODIs, three Twenty20s and four Tests should frame a stirring template for the willow-game. During India’s last tour of Australia in the 2018-19 season, Virat Kohli’s men won the Test and ODI series besides drawing level in the Twenty20s. Since then much water has flowed down the Yarra and Australia is a stronger unit. Steve Smith and David Warner have returned following their ball-tampering controversy and Marnus Labuschagne is a star in the making.

It is now India’s turn to deal with mighty absentees. Rohit Sharma, nursing a sore hamstring, will be missed in the limited-overs’ jousts, a realm he rules with panache. To further queer the pitch, the Mumbaikar looks doubtful for the subsequent Tests though he is in the squad. It could probably be a double-blow as India will miss Kohli in the last three Tests as the skipper will be taking paternity leave. Equally it presents an opportunity for the other talented batsmen in the Indian ranks to burnish their credentials. If in the distant past, cricketing reputations were earned in the West Indies, now Australia is the final yardstick. Sachin Tendulkar scored 100 international tons but his greatness was first revealed through a pulsating century at Perth in 1992 when he was just 18. In Rohit’s absence, K.L. Rahul will be the vice-captain in ODIs and Twenty20s and it is a chance for him to reiterate his potential while Ajinkya Rahane will helm India in the Tests once Kohli flies back. The visitors still have strong batting resources and also a menacing pace attack headlined by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. The stage is set, bio-bubbles will remain and though fans will return, stadiums will not be filled to capacity. As cricket embraces a semblance of normalcy, India taking on Australia is the perfect booster-shot. No matter which team comes up on top, fans are sure to be grateful for the cricketing action.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 1:32:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/cricket-test-the-hindu-editorial-on-2020-21-indias-tour-of-australia/article33179068.ece

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