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Why this is India's best chance to create history in Australia

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
4.55K   //    29 Mar 2018, 02:12 IST

Virat Kohli's men have a great opportunity, now it's about grabbing that chance
Virat Kohli's men have a great opportunity, now it's about grabbing that chance

There is only one topic right now that is occupying a large chunk of news websites, newspapers and television channels, which is: Have Steve Smith and David Warner received a fair punishment from Cricket Australia for their involvement in the ball tampering saga?

The debate will go on for a few days, as it should, because you are referring to two players who are playing as well as they ever could. To take one full year away from their careers would mean stalling them completely from contributing to the team's cause.

However, if you were an Indian cricket team fan or wished for it to do well, you might have a reason to feel happy.

Past blemishes

In its last stretch of overseas assignments for the year 2018, India will embark on a tour Down Under, which would feature four Tests and a limited-overs series.

Last time around, in 2014, India were handed a 0-2 defeat in the longer format, the destroyer-in-chief being Smith with the bat.

The right-hander made 769 runs in the four matches, feasting on some sumptuous Indian bowling on offer, leaving them completely demoralised ahead of the World Cup that followed.

That India bounced back from the defeats and put in a splendid showing in the quadrennial event is a story in itself. But at the semifinal stage they faced the hosts again, and it was Smith again who dashed Indian hopes of winning a second consecutive title, scoring a hundred which paved the way for his side's win.

This time around, India will have no headaches of such kind as Smith will not feature in the series thanks to the suspension.

On that same trip, India faced a similar problem from Warner as well, who made 427 runs in 8 innings. And he too won't be a part of the 2018 series.

That, then, takes away two major threats for India in their quest to win a maiden series in Australia.

In their 11 previous trips to the country, they have managed to draw a series only thrice, losing the eight other rubbers. Significantly, they have managed to win only twice on Australian soil since 2000, the last of those wins coming in 2008.

However, the team they could face this time around would be much different from 2014. It would have a lot of players looking to desperately put in a strong performance and restore some faith among the Australian public, who are expectedly seething at the present moment.

The upcoming tour

The likes of Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, etc. all have prior experience of facing the Men in Blue. But when Smith and Warner were in the side, none of them were expected to win matches on their own.

In the absence of these two stalwarts, it will now be up to the other guys to deliver the goods and rise up to the challenge.

Another factor to consider for India is that the present fast bowling group is among the best anyone has seen in its cricketing history.

The likes of Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and others are much-improved bowlers from the previous trip. If all of them do have a good tour of England and get some good practice ahead of the Tests in Australia, then you can rest assured they would have a big impact in the series.

Past India attacks have looked promising in phases but lacked the consistency required. In that respect, this unit inspires a lot more confidence

What India need to be wary of

Even as India's chances of doing well in Australia look brighter in the absence of Smith and Warner, they need to beware the Australian bowling attack, comprising of the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and others. If they are fit and firing, they could pose a serious threat to the Indian batting line-up.

The mind, at this point, rushes back to the 2011-12 series Down Under. Australia were in a rebuilding phase under Michael Clarke with a few ageing players. India went on that trip with a full-strength squad and dare I say were the favourites.

What transpired was a complete meltdown of the Indian batting line-up, which could not stand up to the likes of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and the emerging duo of Starc and Nathan Lyon.

Hence, even in the absence of Smith and Warner with the bat, India can ill-afford to take the hosts lightly, especially their fast bowling attack.

However, it won't be wrong to say that with Smith and Warner both out of the series, the series won't see Australia start as overwhelming favourites. Instead, it could just be 52-48 in their favour, simply because they are playing at home.

If India manage to do the small things well and keep their composure in the crunch moments, then that could raise optimism of this side creating history Down Under.

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FEATURED COLUMNIST
Massive Rafael Nadal fan. Occasional writer. blog: dravidkeeda.wordpress.com
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