As the Indian cricket team boarded the flight for Australia here on Monday, one couldn't help thinking: "Another 15 hours to go to hit the ground running."
It must not have come entirely as a surprise in these days of packed international calendars that there was no ruckus at the Chatrapati Shivaji International airport when the Indians left for Australia via Singapore. Even the media, except for the television and still cameramen, had taken it easy.
However, more than the lack of buzz, it should be the lack of enough warm-up games that will worry the players.
Yes, it will be another major tour where the Indians will be going into a series proper without adequate warm-up games. A three-day game against a Victoria team at Melbourne's Junction Oval (Dec 20-22) will be the team's lone tune up match before the first Test at the MCG starting on Boxing Day.
Anil Kumble and Co have another three-day game before the second Test and a T20 prior to the triangular one-day series as preparatory games on the tour. But that's about it.
Par for the course
The itineraries of visits to the West Indies in early 2006 and South Africa later last year were similarly crammed and it had an effect on the team's performance and result, although the team led by Rahul Dravid did win the Test series in the Caribbean. In contrast, on the tour of UK this summer, when the players had enough time and matches to get used to the conditions, the individual and team performance was miles up.
Kumble, however, refused to entertain such thoughts. "We have quality in the side. We have enough experience of Australian conditions to adjust to them. The potential in the side and the players' experience will help," he said.
"Ideally, of course, it (the issue of itinerary) has to be looked into. But at the moment, we have to try and get the best out of whatever time we have. We have 10 days, and we have to ensure we are well prepared."
Kumble, who wrote in a column for HT a few days ago that the crammed international scheduling was an issue that needed t be "seriously addressed", added: "You can't look back at this point of time. The best way is to ensure we have the right man to look into these things."
Last hurrah Down Under
The tour would also be momentous one for the five seniors in the team — Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
The quintet, who have been the nucleus of the India team that started to win Tests overseas with regularity, would be keen to bring home the Gavaskar-Border Trophy before they hang up their boots, whenever that maybe.
India have visited Australia eight times and have never won a series there. Of the 32 Tests they have played, the Indians have won just four and lost 20. Kumble chose to take confidence from the series win against Pakistan. "What we tried to ensure was to do the best we can. I think we did that against Pakistan," he said. "It could have been easily 2-0. If only we had those 12 overs in Bangalore. We really dominated them."
There's always hope
The BCCI awards function could probably have helped the players get into the right frame of mind. "It's going to be our batting against their batting," said former Test captain and ICC Elite Umpire, S Venkataraghavan. "Our bowling is a bit weaker than theirs but our batsmen will hold up."
Venkat felt that in terms of performance, the first India team to visit Australia in 1947-48 should be rated one of the best. "Vijay Hazare scored two centuries in a Test (at Adelaide) against the likes of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. That is no mean feat," he said.
The presence of former Test opener Chetan Chauhan as manager could be interesting, for anyone who's superstitious. After his international career came to an end, he played in Adelaide for five years from 1981. Chauhan was also the manager of the team when India halted the 16-match winning streak of Steve Waugh's Invincibles in 2001.