India’s future better than Australia’s
India's future, despite an aging middle-order, appeared much rosier than Australia throughout the series, writes Ian Chappell.cricket Updated: Nov 09, 2008 22:37 IST
Ian Chappell, Former Aus skipper On India-Australia battle
Australia and India have provided some epic battles in the last decade. But where are they headed once this hard fought series is over?
For many years, Australia have been winning over 70 per cent of their matches thanks to a strong and varied attack built around the magic of Shane Warne and the miserly accuracy of Glenn McGrath. Suddenly in India they find themselves with a reasonable pace attack, albeit not entirely suited to Indian conditions and a spin attack too dependant on a bunch of slow bowling part-timers. Not surprisingly, they were unable to dismiss India cheaply and there were serious questions about the whereabouts of the next wicket-taking spinner.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Australia's slow bowling stocks, they still have an extremely strong batting line-up headed by the brilliant Ricky Ponting and the belligerent Matthew Hayden. They were still going to post decent scores but, only supported by an unbalanced attack, they could expect to endure a few more losses and a lot more draws.
Then Jason Krejza made a belated but telling appearance in the series and suddenly the Australian attack appeared a lot better balanced. When looking at the prospects of a team, the first thing to evaluate is the attack; a team will not win consistently without a strong and balanced bowling quartet.
This is why India's future, despite an aging middle-order, appeared much rosier than Australia throughout the series. They have the ideal balance in attack; a left-arm pace bowler who swings the ball, a thoughtful, tall right-armer with pace and bounce, followed by a successful off-spinner and a budding leg-spinner.
There appears to be depth in both pace and spin but India's flaw, and it has been with them for a long time, is the failure to produce a top-class all-rounder. Apart from that headache the big question for India is one of timing; is the great batting era passing just as the attack is reaching full potency?
There are signs that India have some viable replacement batting options. In Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir they have a dynamic opening combination that should be around for some time. The promising debut of Murali Vijay should give confidence that there's a replacement opener on call for any emergency. He also looked like he could easily fill a top order batting slot, particularly at No. 3 where Rahul Dravid is now struggling.
Then there's Rohit Sharma who was impressive in both technique and temperament when he toured Australia. He's now turning potential into consistent runs at the first-class level and the way is now open to blood him in the Test side with Sourav Ganguly retiring.
With Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman still displaying good form, they should be around for a while to guide the younger players.
The one area of concern for the Indian selectors is to find young players who can both bat and field. At crucial times in the current series India had the chance to put Australia away but didn't because of sloppy fielding. No team can expect to dominate without good catching to back strong bowling.
So are these two teams, who have provided world cricket with rare tense Test matches it desperately needs, heading in opposite directions?
There are a couple of things you know about Australian cricket; they will continue to bat well and their out cricket (fielding and running between wickets) is generally of a high standard and they will always play hard for the full five days. A depleted attack will see their winning percentage drop considerably.
Unless India address their flaws in the field and the lack of an all-rounder they will continue to play slightly below the potential of a team with a potent attack.
These aspects will also stop India supplanting Australia as the dominant number one but the rivalry should still be ongoing and extremely intense.