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5 suggestions for Australia to avoid whitewash

‘History repeats itself’ must be the favourite line of the Aussie think-tank. In 2011, they had followed the footsteps of their Ashes rivals to inflict a humiliating defeat on India in their own backyard. So even this time around, they believed that if they followed the English model that was on display just a couple of months ago, they would win the series in India as well.

Their plan seemed to be working perfectly when they played 3 pacers and one off-spinner at Chennai and lost the first Test, just like the English (even their defeat margins were similar). Clarke must have been revelling at the prospect of a series win in India with his young T20, sorry, Test squad. On the morning of the second Test, he repeated the Poms’ actions and included a left-arm-spinner in the playing eleven. But sadly from there on, the script took a cruel twist and so on the eve of the final Test, Clarke and his men find themselves 0-3 down instead of being 2-1 up in the series. In hindsight, the strategy seemed as watertight as Rey Mysterio taking a leaf out of Undertaker’s book and trying to defeat John Cena with a tombstone.

So, here are the five things that the Aussies can look at to prevent India from getting carried away in a wave of ecstasy. Because when the last time that happened in April 2011, it was followed by a nightmare for the next 18 odd months.

It’s the toss, stupid: Ever since the beginning of India’s home season with Tests against New Zealand, it has been demonstrated that except for the first Test of any series, the team that wins the toss in the subsequent matches, loses the match. The trend started with the Kiwis, continued with the Poms and stays unabated with the Kangaroos as well. It seems an unwritten dictum is being followed across all Test venues in India that you either win the toss or the match. Cook got the better end of the deal when he lost the toss and won the match. The only exception to this rule was the fourth Test against England that ended in a draw (I guess the coin that Jai used in Sholay was used in that Test. That can be the only plausible explanation).

If Clarke sits out of the fourth Test, don’t be gullible enough to believe it is because of some injury. It is only because he has failed to come up with 3 suggestions on how to lose the toss.

Starting problem: Enthused by the gigantic success of a left-handed English opener, the Aussies decided to pack their starting eleven with 4 top-order batsmen, 3 of them being left-handed. But much to their dismay, the ‘openers’ who kept coming in at number 3 and number 4 and faced spin straight away against an older ball, appeared undercooked. And neither did the openers, who actually got to open serve a perfect recipe to defeat the Indians.

The supposedly impregnable strategy failed because Australian batsmen didn’t possess Cook’s determination and skill against the slow bowlers.

Aussies must not play four openers together in the Test beginning tomorrow. A middle order batsman batting in the middle order is more likely to succeed. In either case, he can’t do worse than Hughes.

The perfect guests: While the Aussies have long been scoffed at for their arrogant and ruthless behaviour, the same cannot be said about the current visiting side. On the contrary, their batsmen, irrespective of their batting position, have behaved like the perfect guests invited to an official dinner party. In most cases they came in, occupied the crease for some time and then left without scoring too many runs. Even those who did settle in and seemed to have a good time in the middle, left abruptly the moment they realised that they had stayed back for too long for the comfort of the hosts.

However this is Test cricket and not a dinner party. If the Aussies want to come out on top in the last match, their batsmen have to score the big hundreds like Pietersen’s 186 in Mumbai or Cook’s 190 in Kolkata. Henriques in the first Test and Wade in the second Test got good starts but they failed to hang on with Clarke for enough time, where he could have taken the match away from India’s grasp. In the third Test, 3 batsmen (apart from Starc) got past 70 but then the ‘polite guest’ syndrome struck. At Delhi, they cannot afford that if they are to prevent the whitewash. Two big hundreds propelling the team score to something in excess of 500 in the first innings is usually the way Tests are won in India.

Bowling combo: While the Feroz Shah Kotla track may look like a raging turner, one may be tempted to play 2 spinners (or even 3) against the hosts. However, that temptation can be entertained by only England and Pakistan at the moment. The other team would be Bangladesh, but then they may be tempted to play four left-arm spinners even at Perth. It would be in the best interest of the Kangaroos that they play their four best bowlers who are most likely to pick up 20 wickets. 3 pacers and one spinner seems the best combination for them in this match.

With Starc injured, Johnson, often referred to as ‘leader of the pack’ must get a game before he packs his bag one final time this series. True, he can lose his direction sometimes but with their campaign being fairly directionless so far, it should not be much of a concern. On the positive side, he has experience of playing in India before and can prove to be a match winner on his day.

Siddle, after showing some form in the third Test, should be a no-brainer.

Lyon looked like the only spinner who can pick up wickets even when batsmen are not trying to score quick runs.

And, Pattinson must play because,

a) It is the only way in which we can test whether the speedometer at the Delhi ground works for anything in excess of 140 km/hr.

b) The footmarks created by this strong man would be invaluable to Indian spinners.

c) He looked like the best bowler on show in the first two Tests and is most likely to trouble the Indians.

Either way, Pattinson must play.

Pray: Ever since India’s greatest match winner has made his debut, India has never lost a Test and won 75% of its matches. ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja is all set to play the next Test as well. Clearly, the omens are not good for the Aussies. Only substantial amount of assistance from the rain Gods can be the only way for them to save the Test. So, whatever they did right to invite the rain Gods at Mohali must be done with twice the effort this time around. If that means dropping 8 players and going in with only 9 players in the last Test, it may well be worth it.

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