‘India capable of beating Australia’: Sourav Ganguly
After months of negotiations with Cricket Australia to confirm India’s tour of Australia, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly expects the Test leg – which consists of four matches -- to be a stern challenge for Virat Kohli’s India; but a challenge which they can overcome.
“Australia in Australia is always tough. They will be a lot stronger with (Steve) Smith and (David) Warner back. Players like (Marnus) Labuschagne have become better,” Ganguly said in an interview. “It will be a good test for India, but they are capable of winning. It will be a good series.”
As a player, Ganguly had toured Australia on three occasions, leading the country on one of those tours in 2003 -- when they tied the Test series 1-1. That was India’s best result in a Test series Down Under, until Kohli led India to a historic maiden series win (2-1) in 2018-19. But then Australia were without two of their best batsmen, Warner and Smith, due to suspensions.
With Australia back to full strength, Ganguly believes that the series will be an even contest this time around. “It’s a 50-50 chance for both teams. Runs on the board will be important. Whoever bats well will win the series,” the former captain added.
But won’t Australia go in as favourites at home and with a great pace attack to exploit favourable fast bowling conditions? “India has the pace attack to match Australia. There is (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohammed) Shami, (Navdeep) Saini. The attack is as good as Australia’s.”
There could be key additions to India’s 18-member Test squad, if the two Sharmas – Ishant and Rohit -- recover in time for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, added Ganguly. “We are monitoring Ishant and Rohit. Ishant is not completely out. He will become a part of the Test series,” he said. “With Rohit, we want him fit for Australia. At some stage if he is fit, I am sure the selectors will rethink his position.”
With Rohit currently in the UAE with IPL table-toppers Mumbai Indians, and Ishant undergoing rehab in India, Ganguly said there was the option of flying the duo later than the rest of the squad to Australia, despite the bio-bubble and quarantine rules. “They can be sent later. There are flights to Australia.”
Ishant dropped out of the ongoing IPL following an abdominal muscle tear. Rohit is recovering from a hamstring injury to his left leg, but his franchise remains hopeful of his participation in the IPL play-offs. Asked if the star batsman should be advised to drop out of the league so as to not aggravate his injury, Ganguly responded by saying: “We haven’t seen him playing.”
IN PINK OF HEALTH
The first Test of the Australia series will be played under lights in Adelaide and Ganguly believes that Pink-Ball Tests are the future of the game. “Pink-ball is the way forward in Test cricket. Australia will also allow crowds. So, it will be great. It will mark a return to some sort of normalcy in cricket,” he said.
Ganguly had initiated India’s first day-night Test in Kolkata last year, allaying Indian players’ apprehensions with the pink ball. “They played with it in India. They will be fine, don’t worry,” said Ganguly. “Players got used to the white ball and ultimately they will be fine with the pink ball too. There will be a tough phase in the day (second session), but they will get used to it. The white ball is also not easy to sight during twilight, but players have got used to it, we will see that happen here too.”
Rather than looking at the Test series opener as a disadvantage, Ganguly said India should look at their track record on the ground and take confidence. “India won in Adelaide in the last series, which was also the first Test. We won there in 2003 too. India has a history of winning at Adelaide. And India is going with a good bowling attack.”
He also confirmed that the issue of accommodating players’ families with the touring party, for what will be a long tour in a bio secure bubble, has been resolved. “Yes, the players’ families will be allowed. The Australian cricket board has been very supportive,” he said.
Confirming that India will have a domestic season that will begin next year, Ganguly expressed hope that the next IPL edition in April-May will be played in India. “Hopefully the vaccine will be out by that time and we can host it,” he added, while UAE remains a fall-back option for the Indian board.
Teams like Chennai Super Kings, who are looking to change the core of their squad, are waiting for clarity on whether there will be a full-scale auction or a mini one before the next IPL. “We haven’t decided anything yet. Let this season conclude, we will take a call,” said Ganguly.
Naming Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Shubman Gill and Devdutt Padikkal as the big domestic successes of the ongoing edition of the IPL, Ganguly had a specific message for Mumbai’s Yadav. The batsman has impressed with his range of strokes and big runs in difficult situations for MI this season, yet found no place in India’s short-format squads to Australia. “He is a very good player,” said Ganguly. “His time will come.”