Even without a blazer, made needless in the hot March afternoon in the capital, Australia's high-performance boss Pat Howard stood out as he entered the team's nets at the Ferozshah Kotla ground on Wednesday.After a quick handshake with Rod Marsh, the former wicket-keeping great who is a selector, Howard, who had stoked the controversy over the axing of four players for the Mohali Test by saying vice-captain Shane Watson was 'sometimes' a team man, moved to the other end to talk to some support staff. He then broke into a shadow boxing routine, the tiny group laughed.
The irony could not have been starker. The team sweating it out had been knocked out thrice in the series; the odds on the Aussies staying on their feet in the fourth Test starting at the Ferozshah Kotla on Friday look slim.
It has been a mighty fall for Australia. For the current lot, turning a few pages of history will help. Allan Border, leading a team in transition in 1986, re-kindled the Aussie spirit in the tied Test in Chennai and won the World Cup in Kolkata the next year.
For the most inspiring tale on how to hit the sub-continent running, they need not look beyond skipper Michael Clarke's sensational Test debut in 2004. He slammed a match-winning century in Bangalore and signed off with six for nine runs bowling left-arm spin in the final Test in Mumbai after their first series win in India for 35 years had been secured.
Firm evidence that tempers over the axing came as Watson, having flown back from home, had a long batting session. He will be thrust into captaincy if Clarke, who was present but did not train due to a troublesome back, sits out.
Opener Ed Cowan was asked to pick through the ruins but felt the team was together. "The events in Mohali brought a bit of solidarity to the team. This is how we want to move forward. If you are in, you are in. If you don't want to be a part of it, then don't be. And Shane wants to be a part of it. So the assumption is we are all moving together, and the team is happy to have him back because he is a hell of a player," he said after training.
"If you are not learning and making the same mistakes, then you have an issue. Everyone is improving. I just feel we have to improve quicker to put pressure on the Indians for a longer period of time."