When India last arrived in Australia, there was a clear-cut goal. The focus was on the 2015 World Cup. The schedule, the training, the momentum was directed at peaking in February-March. There was a buzz around everything the team participated in, every act was related to how it will affect or benefit the team when the main show kicked off.
Even though, cricket is majorly played as bilateral contests, they are nowadays mainly planned as a build-up to the major event of the season. It’s no more about which team is available.
Look at it from any angle, however, it is difficult to find a context to five-match Australia versus India one-day series. It doesn’t fit with the goal of the season – which happens to be the ICC World Twenty20 – where the format will be different and so will be the conditions.
It’s another example of how, as in any sport, commerce remains the major overriding factor. India is here mainly because they remain the most marketable team. And in their recent understanding with Australia and England, in the formation of Big Three, they will all play each other more often. It suits all three and their broadcasters.
However, the biggest stakeholders, their fans, who like a good contest, won’t be complaining either.
It’s not just about winning, but the essence of sport is proving your mettle in a real fight. Australia has always been a tough place to tour, more so for teams from subcontinent. Being able to stand your ground here is the ultimate high because of a lot of reasons. Not only the opponent is of high quality, he will test your nerve with every trick in the book, the crowds can turn hostile and most of all the conditions are difficult to adjust.
From the World Cup record of reaching the semis, it appears India has become a formidable foe here too. But, Australia in Australia remains a daunting foe. On the last tour, while India had the measure of other opponents, they couldn’t beat hosts even once in the entire, nearly four month stay. In the World Cup semifinal, they were annihilated by the green brigade.
Of 43 games against Australia here, India have lost 31 with two no results.
Despite the bonhomie among its Boards, there will be no easy games on offer. From the schedule, it’s clear that it has been planned to psyche the tourists. The two fastest venues are first up, WACA and Brisbane. The home team hasn’t felt the need to select a specialist spinner in their squad says it all about their line of attack.
The highpoint of India’s one-day record Down Under is the 2007-08 win in the tri-series finals against Australia. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the captain, and it was Rohit Sharma’s first series here and he had made an immediate impression. Now, he is followed in the line-up by Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, both have a distinct liking for these surfaces, where the ball rapidly grows big on you but if you can adjust, it also comes on to the bat nicely for great strokeplay. This batting unit is well-equipped. However, Australia have that little bit of extra edge. It is not going to be easy. And that’s the thrill factor.