India is supposedly home to 330 million unique deities. That sounds like quite a lot to us and some of the less conspicuous Gods must be feeling rather overlooked with so much competition around. Which is all a bit like James Tredwell’s Test career. But with so many hanging around the place we’re sure they wouldn’t mind one more joining their number in the near future. We speak, of course, of Moises Constantino Henriques, soon to be the most famous man of Portuguese descent since Vasco da Gama.
The unenlightened may view Henriques’ imminent ascension with a mixture of confusion and scorn, but don’t be fooled. ‘Til now he has merely assumed the form of a thoroughly underwhelming cricketer so as better to test the faith of disciples to the Church of Moises. We were not deceived however and saw Him for the unblemished figure of cricketing perfection that He embodies. Very soon the population of India will discover this for themselves. World domination will surely follow.
It’s hard to think of anything meaningful to say about this series when the overwhelming expectation is that Australia will collapse the moment the ball is thrown to an Indian spinner. Whoever it is. Sure, the same expectations clouded the build up to the series against England, but they feel rather more legitimate here. India were taught many painful lessons in their last Test series, and they surely have taken heed of them in preparing for this one. It’s not like they have been wasting their time playing meaningless ODI series in the interim…
We are not expecting much in the way of surprises in the Indian line-up. It will be stacked full of spinners for a start. Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Aswin will be there and Harbhajan Singh has been picked as well, because…well…just because. Alongside them you would expect Ishant Sharma to fulfil the role of front-line quick/Adonis. That is if his foot has been successfully reattached after emergency surgery in Melbourne. One of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda may also get a run. We hope not, though, as both need to keep their powder dry ahead of the IPL season, where they will be needed to cover for Kane Richardson when he is inevitably red-carded from the Pune attack.
The batting is a little trickier to predict. With Guantam Gambhir paying the price of being in poor form and not being Sachin Tendulkar, an opening spot is available. Murali Vijay seems to be the leading contender, although it wouldn’t surprise if the BCCI choose Ajinkya Rahane instead just to spite us. They can be petty like that. Just ask Jim Maxwell.
The past two Test tourists to India have had similar experiences. Both New Zealand and England were utterly horrid in their first encounter, before bouncing back and performing strongly. The key seems to be not completely stuffing up your team selection, and treating the Indian spinners with as little respect as possible. It will be interesting to see if Australia have learnt anything from recent history and not allow themselves to be dominated in the opening Test of the series.
The Australian line-up actually suggests they have been paying at least a little attention and are going in with a clear plan. Whether it’s the correct one remains to be seen, but by picking three quicks with Henriques as back up they have decided to play to their own strengths, rather than try and compensate for their weaknesses. Always a bold move, even if not always an entirely sensible one.
By going with only the one spinner, Nathan Lyon, they are hoping that the Indian batsmen continue to show their recent susceptibility to good fast bowling (and it needs to be said an attack of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson is* a pretty decent one), and that Lyon will be able to hold up an end. Based on recent form these are both entirely plausible** assumptions. Xavier Doherty can consider himself unlucky to have missed out on a spot after his decent form on tour thus far, but the selectors clearly believe this is the path to success in India. Plus there is the fact that Xavier Doherty is Xavier Doherty to consider.
But all of that is purely secondary in importance compared to the concerns that exist with the batting. Australia’s form with the bat so far on the tour has been utterly dire, and unless they have been foxing up till now to give the hosts a false sense of security (we wouldn’t put such a ploy past Michael Clarke) they are going to need to experience a complete reversal once the real cricket begins. One thing is for sure, they won’t share England’s approach of boring everyone to death, they will look to attack from the start. Again, it’s a tactic that could work, and once more one that plays to their strengths, but it could all go hilariously wrong. And probably will.
India to romp home.
Well, we probably should justify that position just a little, but does any other outcome seem remotely likely? Australia could come out on top, and they have tried to stack the deck in their favour as much as they can, which is highly commendable, but in the end you can’t really hide the fact that their batting looks dodgy as hell. Without Michael Hussey around there is an awful lot of pressure on Michael Clarke to carry the team, and as God-like as Henriques is, he can’t do everything.
We hope it doesn’t happen though. Particularly with Harbhajan playing. There’s something about that gentleman that puts us right off our morning gin and cornflakes.