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Going where no Indian team has gone before

india Updated: Mar 22, 2013 02:52 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
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It is the closest India have got to uncharted territory at home. When they take on Australia in the final Test, starting at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Friday, the hosts will be aiming to complete their first-ever four-Test series sweep.

Having clinched a 3-0 series lead for the first time against Australia, the hosts will back themselves to avenge the 0-4 rout suffered Down Under on the 2011-12 tour.

Favourable home conditions have played a significant role in turning this into a one-sided series, and another dry surface, and hot weather that will remove what little moisture is left on the pitch, points to the India spinners again proving a handful.

Australia, who challenged India for brief spells in the third Test in Mohali, have major issues to contend with. The biggest is skipper Michael Clarke's back trouble that can rule him out and the return of his deputy Shane Watson.


If Clarke plays, then one specialist batsman will have to sit out in favour of Watson.

Amidst the cheer in the India camp, there is one player who will be anxious - Ajinkya Rahane. The 24-year-old Mumbai batsman has been part of the squad since late 2011, when he was picked for the home series against the West Indies.

He toured Australia and was also part of the home series against New Zealand and England, but the batting changes wrought by the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, as well as the axing of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag before and during this series have not opened a chance for him to make his debut.

Wait not over?
One would have expectd Rahane's agonising wait to end in Delhi after opener Shikhar Dhawan suffered a fracture after jamming fingers in his left hand while attempting a sliding stop in Mohali.

But it became clear the team management had different ideas when the selectors tried to recall Gambhir and once he was ruled out, as he is suffering from jaundice, they included Suresh Raina.

That suggested Dhoni and Co may be looking to slot at least one left-handed batsman in the top six to tackle Australia's spinners better.

Unclear situation
Although Rahane can bat at the top - he opens in limited--overs cricket - or in the middle order, there was no clarity on who will open either.

Raina and Rahane both batted in the nets but it was Cheteshwar Pujara and Vijay who batted first before the others had their session as per their batting order.

Pujara, who has made the No 3 spot his own since Dravid's retirement, opened in the second innings in Mohali due to Dhawan's injury but it would be unfair to make him do that again.

In an ideal world, Rahane would be handed his Test debut and Pujara go back to his original slot.

However, the choice of personnel is unlikely to have a major impact in this Test. Although Clarke has won the toss in each Test, his team has failed to cash in on the advantage of getting to use the pitch when it plays its best.

India have also consolidated batting second with two batsmen going to get big runs in each game once they settle down.