Same situation, new approach
You could be excused if you felt you were at a different match when Australia and India take turns to field and bat in the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar series.
When Australia are fielding at the MA Chidambaram stadium, the spectators will be greeted by the sight of the 'keeper standing deep behind in his baggy green, and the batsmen taking guard in all their protective armour, from helmet to elbow guard. And when it's the visitors' turn to bat, the man with the big gloves will be crouching right behind the batsmen, who will shed their helmets for hats and caps.Looking at the two line-ups, the first Test is going to be a spin versus pace battle. The combinations preferred by MS Dhoni and Michael Clarke are so different that at the end of it, one captain would have got it wrong. Dhoni has decided to test the Aussies with spin strength while Clarke is trying to intimidate the hosts with his pace battery.
Harbhajan Singh is being given his 100th cap, and will be the third spinner. It will be interesting to see if India add another tweaker and stick to a four-man spin attack, used in the last Test at Nagpur, or pick a two-pacer, three-spinner combination. Looking at the surface, the Aussies seem to have a death wish by choosing four pacers and a lone spinner.
The wicket looks very dry - tailor-made for tweakers. In the subcontinent, it's the pacers adept at reverse swing who are more effective; and this Australian attack is not known for skills with the old ball.
Overall, this is a series between two mediocre outfits trying to rise again.
Keeping aside their combinations, both bowling attacks lack depth and variety. If Australia are short of quality spinners, India can't trust the spin attack after they failed to dominate England at home.
On paper, both have the weakest line-ups in the last two decades. The hosts are on the wane and vulnerable, the loss to England, the mediocre showing against New Zealand and the routs away against Australia and England, the proof.
And Australia are not the same classy and confident team anymore. The retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey has left a big hole in the middle-order. Never mind the names, these two rivals have a history of being able to produce a riveting series, especially in subcontinent conditions. When the heat is on, new heroes have been emerged and teams have lifted their game to another level in trying to outdo each other since their contest was named after Border and Gavaskar in 1996.
Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan, Virender Sehwag and Clarke are among the remnants of the great rivalry which witnessed epic battles in 2001, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2007-08 and 2010.
These seasoned hands will vouch that the 2013 series presents an entirely different set of challenges for both teams.