Cricket’s final frontier: Can India win a test series in Australia?

Cricketing reputations are sometimes made or shattered based on how a player performs against Australia. That’s been something of a trend ever since the West Indies began its free fall after losing to Australia in the mid-1990s. And Australia, in its own backyard, is considered the ultimate opposition. Sachin Tendulkar has scored 100 international centuries, but even today his splendid 114 at Perth during the 1992 tour of Australia is regarded as one of his finest. For Virat Kohli’s men, who have just set foot in Australia and narrowly lost their first Twenty20 encounter, the long tour presents an opportunity for India to reiterate its credentials. The International Cricket Council has ranked India as number one in Tests and placed it at the second spot in both ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals. Incidentally, in all three lists, Kohli’s men are ranked above Australia. The hosts remain a powerful force at home, but having been weakened by the ban-induced absence of Steve Smith and David Warner following the ball-tampering incident earlier this year in South Africa, they are shorn of their usual domineering aura. Australia is placed fifth, sixth and fourth in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s, respectively. The dip in performance has been matched by intense self-analysis about the manner in which Australia plays its sport. The ‘result-justifies-the-unsavoury-methods’ philosophy has been put through a wringer ever since Cameron Bancroft was caught rubbing a sandpaper on the ball.

It is in this theatre of tumult that the Indian team has landed. But the sobering truth is that Kohli’s men, like many of their predecessors, have been poor travellers beyond the subcontinent. There has been the odd upset but largely it has been a tale of debilitating defeats. In the previous tour of England, India lost the Tests 1-4 while honours were shared between the ODIs and Twenty20s. Cut to the present, the three Twenty20s are a prelude to four Tests and three ODIs. Batsman Kohli reigns supreme but his captaincy has come under scrutiny. The constant shuffling of the playing XI has triggered churn and the Indian skipper has to work on getting his nucleus right. There are some fine batsmen, a bunch of incisive fast bowlers and spinners with guile. The ingredients are there and there is some confidence in dealing with what may be viewed as a somewhat enfeebled Australia. But a potent pace attack led by Mitchell Starc offers a clear and present danger, especially in Tests. India has to exorcise the ghosts of the past, having never won a Test series in Australia. The circumstances are promising for it to correct that record.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 4:17:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/crickets-final-frontier/article25570458.ece

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