Will India escape another pummeling by Australia?
The Indian team in Australia has resembled a crumbling edifice and a second successive 4-0 overseas Test series rout looms large, barring a miracle with three days left.
Over the last decade, the one Test tour Indian cricket fans eagerly anticipated was to Australia. Waking up before dawn, they have always savoured the fight the visitors somehow conjured, although winning had often been improbable against the number one ranked home team that easily contained among the finest set of players ever assembled.
As India hobble into the last three days of a series the battered players won’t be allowed to forget easily, millions of their fans are feeling as fatigued as their fallen heroes. With the second successive 4-0 pounding very much a reality, only a last-gasp batting fightback, somehow finding the strength to hold out against the Aussies, can even stop that clean sweep from happening within the distance.
All that can go wrong has on this tour. The shaky Australian batsmen have come good with a vengeance. Ricky Ponting will now get the heroic farewell whenever the batting great decides to bid adieu to the international game. Skipper Michael Clarke will be thanking India for all their favours on the pitch, not just having piled on the runs and won matches as he wanted but also having gained esteem among the Aussie fans, experts and the media.
Much has been written about India’s ageing stalwarts. While it will be unfair to merely blame Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar or VVS Laxman, time has come to finally take firm steps to infuse young batsmen into one of the greatest middle-order line-ups the game has seen.
If there is still any hope that India will escape an Adelaide anguish, that is because Sachin Tendulkar is still in the middle. Although, the anxiety of searching for his 100th international century has not entirely helped the maestro, Tendulkar is one specialised batsman in the Indian ranks who has looked good; until he has contrived to get out every time, either forced to go on the defensive due to quick fall of wickets at the other end, or losing concentration to make the job of the hunting Aussie bowling pack.
To be fair, India’s bowling unit still had its share of highs, unlike the batsmen. But Zaheer and Co, having repeatedly struck early but lost grip on the Australian batsmen, also wear the beaten look now. The only interest around an Indian Test team member is whether Tendulkar will be conferred the Bharat Ratna.
By N Ananthanarayanan