Australia leads the 4-match Border-Gavaskar series 1-0
In just four days, things have changed. A siege at Sydney’s Martin Place, where an Islamic terrorist held hostages at the Lindt café for 16 hours ended in the early hours of Tuesday with two unfortunate deaths. Again, the world had a lot to learn from the way the Australian media and citizens handled the affair. The media refused to play the blame game, and the citizens began the #illridewithyou movement online to assure their support to Muslims afraid to take public transport following a backlash from right-wing extremists. This was the second lesson to learn from the Aussies, after the grace and dignity with which they handled the Hughes’ funeral. Testing times no doubt, but their cricket has made the country proud.
The rawness that surfaced at Adelaide, at least from an Indian perspective, will now be replaced by seasoned caution. MS Dhoni returns after an injury lay-off to take charge of a team he no doubt wanted to lead in Adelaide, or even step in during the 5th day madness that unfolded under Virat and co.
Hence, expect changes. There are a few issues plaguing both teams.
Despite their narrow win, they have a lot to be worried about. But they also have a lot to look forward to. Every sign points towards a beginning of a new era in Australian test cricket. Michael Clarke, who suffered a torn hamstring again, fears that his long-term career might be over. He is 34. He will no longer play in this series. Steve Smith, who wasn’t even a certainty in any format 16 months ago, and now Australia’s blonde boy wonder, will become Australia’s 45th Test Captain at Brisbane on Wednesday. He will be Australia’s third youngest captain at 25, and his stunning rise to the top is well and truly complete. Haddin, one of the only senior players in the side, will support him as his deputy. Moreover, Peter Siddle who was toothless at Adelaide has been dropped to bring in fiery youngster Hazelwood, while Harris has been injured again to give way to Mitchell Starc. The bowling line-up will now be Johnson, Starc, Hazelwood, Marsh and Lyon. The tail is long with Starc, Johnson more than capable of shoring up things, while Marsh remains an all-rounder. Shaun Marsh will replace Captain Clarke to play at no. 4, while the underperforming Watson will continue at no. 3. This is a strong young team with a new leader—an exciting glimpse into the future.
AUS XI: Warner, Rogers, Watson, S. Marsh, Smith ©, M. Marsh, Haddin, Johnson, Starc, Hazelwood, Lyon.
MS Dhoni will replace Saha, and with Dhoni back, Ashwin is likely to be back as the lead spinner and all-rounder. This seems like a good call after Karn’s unconvincing performance at Adelaide. With Ashwin as an extra batsman, Rohit might find himself out of the side to make way for an extra bowler like Umesh Yadav. Aaron will likely get another shot, while India will continue to miss Bhuvi sorely. Dhawan will be given another shot at the top, and he must make it count. Rahane will be given the nod ahead of Rohit in overseas conditions as always, while Ishant and Shami will lead the bowlers. Raina could also fill in if the team isn’t convinced about Ashwin, but considering Lyon’s great performance, India will want its own off-spinner now. Raina definitely won’t play in Perth either. Dhoni will revert to a 5-bowler strategy at the Gabba—a venue where Australia have won more than 80% of its matches. India desperately miss a genuine all-rounder, a role Bhuvi was growing into gradually. Ashwin is the closest they have, as well as Jadeja, who they might give a shot if he begins to realize that he must take wickets too. The team looks thin and brittle in the middle, and the top order will have to pull its weight and make it count, especially Pujara and Dhawan, who haven’t done well lately. Pujara needs to sort out his front-foot issues against Lyon.
IND XI: Dhawan, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Dhoni, Ashwin, Yadav, Aaron, Ishant, Shami.
Australia begin as favorites, on paper and in every other way. India’s bowling can’t take 20 wickets yet, and their batsmen don’t have the experience yet. Rohit failed at Adelaide, and blew another opportunity to prove himself on a good pitch abroad. Australia could win this to deflate young India and go 2-0 ahead.