India in Australia ready to beat a home team in turmoil
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — India's cricketers have arrived in Australia ready to exploit a home team beset by turmoil on and off the field.
A maiden test series win on Australian soil is the main aim of the tour, which kicks off Wednesday with a Twenty20 International in Brisbane and includes games across all three formats.
"It's the one place that we want to leave our mark and do well as a unit," India's vice-captain Rohit Sharma told a news conference Monday. "The last time we played test series here — although we lost two games and we drew one game — I thought there were a few close games being played.
"We want to make it count this time around. There's a real good feeling inside the group."
While India tops the current test rankings, Australia has slid to No. 5 in a year overshadowed by a ball-tampering scandal in March that ended in test captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner being suspended for 12 months from international and first-class cricket and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft barred for nine months.
India is No. 2 in the one-day international and Twenty20 international rankings, while five-time and defending World Cup champion Australia has slumped to No. 6 in the ODI rankings and No. 3 in T20s.
As far as Sharma and the India contingent is concerned, Australia cricket has never been more susceptible to losing at home. India has won only five tests in Australia — three in the 1970s and early 80s — one in 2004 and one in '08.
The four-test series starts in Adelaide on Dec. 6 — a break with tradition from a regular first test venue at Brisbane's Gabba ground — and will include matches in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
Sharma knows that going from a relatively predictable Adelaide wicket to what is expected to be a bouncy, fast pitch in Perth could be the biggest challenge of the series.
"Australia has bowlers who are very tall and extract those conditions, use them to their advantage," Sharma said of the Perth test. "Indian batsman generally are not that tall.
"Obviously it's not that easy for us but, again, all the guys are quite determined to change things around this time."
A rebuilding Australia squad is coming off back-to-back series losses to Pakistan and South Africa in the limited-overs formats, following a test series loss to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
The fallout from the ball-tampering episode in March at Cape Town, when Bancroft's awkward attempt to change the condition of the match ball by rubbing it with sandpaper, has gone way beyond Australia's playing XI.
Coach Darren Lehmann quit at the end of that series in South Africa, and has been replaced by Justin Langer. Cricket Australia's chairman, chief executive and high-performance manager have also quit and been replaced in a period of destabilization for the national game.