India vs Australia: India look to seal series at Mohali
New pairing Murali Vijay and debutant Shikhar Dhawan will look to start off with a bang as India look to seal the series at Mohali. N Ananthanarayanan writes. Match reckonerUpdated: Mar 14, 2013 02:50 IST
An attendant at the sports good shop in the Punjab Cricket Association stadium carried out a life-size cutout of Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina, advertising the wares inside.
Stuck in the middle of the glass entrance door was the sticker of a proud Sehwag, arms raised triumphantly after one of his exploits.
Cricket fans, however, will not get to see the man in flesh and blood in the third Test against Australia starting on Thursday, which could well mark a new era in Indian cricket.
They will go into the game without the explosive batsman, who made his low-key debut in a one-dayer against Pakistan in Mohali in 1999 and has dominated bowlers across the world with his batting methods.
Sehwag was out of the team for a year before making a grand comeback in 2008. But almost 35 years old now, the odds as of now on a fresh stint are low.
But in a country where durable openers are precious commodity, the national selectors have cast aside Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag in quick succession.Discipline counts
Both Murali Vijay, who made a mature 167 in Hyderabad, and Shikhar Dhawan, selected to partner him and become the latest Test debutant from Delhi, will thus feel some extra pressure, such was the aura around Sehwag.
Though they have been together in the squad for over a month now, Vijay and Dhawan touched gloves at the batting nets during India's first extensive nets for the Mohali Test held on Tuesday.
They have also opened together in domestic cricket which should help show understanding in the middle, but the debutant in particular will know all eyes will be on him ahead of the next scheduled Test series in South Africa at the end of the year.
On Thursday, they hit the batting nets first. Both are aggressive batsmen and have in the past showed a tendency to throw away their wickets after getting starts. Thus the focus was on tightening the defence.
Sachin Tendulkar spent time with Vijay, asking him to make minor adjustments to his defence as the latter listened attentively.
The air of confidence in Dhawan was unmistakable as he came to address a media conference after it was decided to hand him his Test debut.
The knowledge that James Pattinson, Australia's most successful bowler so far in the series, will be absent could be one of the reasons.
But the first Test should provide a big learning curve in terms of valuing his wicket.
Opening and new-ball bowling are sensitive topics in India. And both departments are heavily influenced by the wicket.
The flat pitches for domestic cricket and dry surfaces, like the one laid out for the third Test, make fewer technical demands on batsmen against pace, but leave them vulnerable when playing away from home. And pacers, barring the best, are often reduced to a side act.
Although India are 2-0 up and face an opposition in disarray, two experienced bowlers will also be under pressure.
Local hero Harbhajan Singh will be one of them, having taken just five wickets in this spin-dominated series so far.
His bowling has been dissected for hours in the nets here. Australia's batting may have been weakened further but Bhajji could find it tough again if the surface does not have the bounce it usually has.
The other is Ishant Sharma, who has struggled for wickets and goes into his 50th Test with highest average among others who have gone on to play more than 50 Tests.
First Published: Mar 13, 2013 23:02 IST