Australia hope to start series on positive note against rampaging India at home | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Australia hope to start series on positive note against rampaging India at home

Australia not the same dominating or aggressive side of the past as they hope to give a good account of themselves against India, the No.1 Test side, in the first Test in Pune.

cricket Updated: Feb 22, 2017 21:48 IST
Australia national cricket team
Australia's David Warner stretches during a practice session ahead of their first Test in Pune on Wednesday.(AP)

The last time Australia toured India in 2013, captains Michael Clarke and Shane Watson had won the toss in all the four Tests. But they then went on to lose all four Tests.

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So when Steve Smith leads his men on to the pitch during the first Test of the four-match series here, he will have to ensure many more things go his way than simply luck. It will be here at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium where he will have to take charge of the Rising Pune Supergiants team in two months’ time and the series-opener might be a perfect opportunity for him to prove his credentials to the local crowd.

The hosts, however, don’t want to take a chance. Even though local curator Pandurang Salgaoncar said Pune’s debut Test would be played on a true Test pitch, Dhiraj Parsana, the zonal head of the BCCI’s grounds and pitches committee and Daljit Singh, the national head of the pitches committee have been asked to overlook Salgaoncar’s effort.

The ‘home’ advantage, after all, needs to be taken.

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Will mean a world

“If we can win here, when we look back after 20 years it is going to be the best time of lives,” Smith had said a few days back. It makes sense, given that they have not only been whitewashed by India four years back but have also lost eight of the last 10 Test matches in India.

An India-Australia Test series is always special. To the cricket-fanatic Indian crowd, the only fixture that’s bigger than this is probably that against arch-rivals Pakistan. An entire generation has grown up envying Australians for their victory streaks, including the loss inflicted on India in the 20013 World Cup final. They are also unlikely to forget some unsavoury incidents of sledging and unsportsmanlike behaviour. In fact, those incidents have made those matches so memorable.

Contrasting mood

However, both the sides have evolved since then. India are unbeaten for 19 Tests that includes six consecutive series wins while Australia will have to fight tooth and nail to avoid their 10th successive defeat in Asia.

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The flamboyance and aura that made Australia special in the past are absent. The sledging, mind-games and aggression that one associated with a visiting Australian side have given way to clinging on to ‘hope’. Be it Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, or captain Steve Smith, the one thing that they kept repeating is how they ‘hope’ to see their plans succeed against the world No 1 side.

Indians, on the other hand, have openly challenged Australia to put their best foot forward, declaring they’ve got a plan for every player. Former cricketers, too, have backed the hosts to inflict yet another whitewash.

There’s a bit of fake aggression as well. While Smith has said he’s given freedom to his players to openly sledge, his deputy David Warner is unsure if that would be a good option, especially against Virat Kohli.

No complacency

Although India have reserves that allow them to drop a triple centurion in the next game if needed, it would be foolish to underestimate the Australian side. Mitchell Starc will spearhead the pace attack while Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe will hope to replicate what Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann did in 2012. India however start clear favourites.

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While the Australian side has openly admitted their concern about Kohli’s form with the bat, they’re equally aware of the capability Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja possess with the ball. Thus, in order to come out on top, Australia will not just have to play a brand of cricket that they haven’t played in the last decade, they’ll also have to ‘hope’ that their plans fall in place.