It’s that time again when it becomes fashionable to come up with resolutions to acknowledge the passage of time and atone for the mistakes of the year gone by.
If MS Dhoni & Co come up with a resolution to usher in 2012 it could be winning more Test matches abroad — they won just one of their 9 Tests away from Indian shores in 2011. More pertinently, in the context of the current series, it should be to not lose a Test match abroad — something they’ve failed to do over their last five away Tests.
The 122-run thumping in the Boxing Day Test now behind them, India head to the scene of one of their most acrimonious battles, the SCG — where four years ago all hell broke loose in the infamous ‘Monkeygate Test’.
The two central characters from that incident, Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh, are no longer part of the contest. Since that Test, with the advent of the IPL, the rancour between the two teams has lessened. If this time there will be any fireworks, like the ones that lit up the Sydney skyline on New Year’s Eve, it’s more likely to be in a sporting context.
The match, the 100th at the historic venue, could be the sight for an even greater century — Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international ton. With an otherworldly average of 221.33 at the venue, by his own admission his favourite outside India, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched despite the recent jitters in his record-breaking quest. VVS Laxman, the other batting great for whom this ground is like a second home, already has three tons in three Tests. If he adds to his tally, he’ll join English great Wally Hammond as the only visiting batsmen to get four at the venue.
If ever there was a time for either batsmen to click it is now. India’s famed batting line-up had no answer to a three-pronged Australian pace attack that made up with enthusiasm what it lacked in experience.
Bowlers on a roll
For once it’s the bowlers who have lived up to expectations, far exceeded them by some counts, while the batsmen struggle to get a grip. Zaheer Khan has looked menacing with the new ball, but even more so with an old ball. Umesh Yadav’s seven-wicket haul has firmly established his place in the side. Ishant Sharma’s pace and bounce didn’t reflect in the wickets column, but even by the admission of the Aussie batsmen, on occasions he was the most threatening of India’s bowlers.
For India, the key, however, will be how the batsmen fare. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are both stuck in a rut, especially the left-hander. How India’s openers set things up for the most experienced middle-order ever in cricket will go a long way in deciding how the Test pans out.