It's time for the Australians to recede into the background as practice matches and open media sessions become a thing of past and a Test match approaches. It's time to put an end to the speculation over whether 'super spy' Greg Chappell has passed on vital information. It's now time for the Indians to take centrestage. The build up to the first Test, which begins here, has been a tale of contrast for the two teams. Australia have lost one uncapped spinner to injury and seen the other taken to the cleaners. The visitors had a scare when the wicketkeeper was struck on a finger he had only recently broken and was forced off the field. Save Michael Hussey, none of the batsmen have gone on to make a significant score and crucially young spinners like Piyush Chawla and Pragyan Ojha have caused plenty of trouble.
India, on the other hand, have been stationed in Bangalore, and even the controversy of the last-minute retention of Sourav Ganguly in the Test squad has not distracted them. Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton, for the first time since they took over, have had a chance to systematically plan and execute preparation in the lead-up to a series. It helps that they have been based out of Bangalore, where the National Cricket Academy, under Dav Whatmore's watchful eye, has established a stable practice facility. Most importantly, the Indians have managed to keep things fairly quiet.
One of India's problems playing Australia, in the past, is that they have tended to be undercooked in comparison to their opponents. Australia's well-oiled support staff machinery has kept the team fine-tuned while India struggled to find time between tournaments to work on strength, conditioning and general repairs. When you come up against the best team in the world without being 100% prepared, you usually falter.
This time around, there is no room for excuses. Except for Ganguly, the batsmen have managed at least one good knock in the last series against Sri Lanka.
Man for man, the Indian team probably stack up as favorites in this series, and barring a batting collapse, they should come out on top. Australia's bowlers will have their plans, but earning wickets on Indian pitches will take patience and hard work, and the inexperienced bowlers might just find frustration creeping up on them.
The Indians, who had a spell indoors at the NCA after rain put paid to outdoor practice, know this is their best chance to hurt Australia. After being made to look foolish in Sri Lanka, India's batting heroes will be hurting, and looking for redemption, and they all have played enough cricket to know there is no better way to make a statement than performing against the best in the world.