The Adelaide test starting on Tuesday is going to be a nice challenge for India. It has been a long three years since they last played a test series here in Australia (and subsequently got demolished 4-0), and since then, not a lot has changed; India struggle away from home.
Playing two tour games against two different Cricket Australia XI sides as preparation has been more than advantageous for the visitors; given the circumstances in which the schedule has been changed, India has been given plenty of time to adapt to the dry and warm conditions in Adelaide.
Their strength seems to lie in a bowling attack which includes experience and new “kids” off the block. Varun Aaron’s eight wickets across the two tour games played in the lead-up to the first test suggest an in-form, quick paceman ready to pounce. He sent down regular bouncers at speed during the first warm-up game in Glenelg, and should work with Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami.
Captain MS Dhoni will not take the field in Adelaide, giving Virat Kohli the reins instead. This on paper looks like an obstacle; in reality, there is still plenty of depth that can amount a big score.
The counter-argument to that is, once again, a poor track record away from the sub continent. Last time India won a series away from home was way back in 2011 against the West Indies; before that, against Bangladesh in 2009/10 – giving them just two away series wins in five years.
Aaron showed no fear in sending down thunderbolts in Glenelg two weeks ago, and so, despite the circumstances surrounding the game, the expectation is that the bouncer will return, and be part of “the spirit of the game.”
Kohli promise of “aggression and spontaneity” needs to arrive at Adelaide from ball one. If India want to be ready, they cannot come out like timid little rabbits. The acting skipper has said that aggression is the “only way to play cricket in Australia.” In many respects, that should be the mentality all around the world.
Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli were all given ample time at the crease during their two tour matches; however, Dhawan, with scores of 10 and a duck, looked shaky against the bowling of Josh Lalor in the tour games at Glenelg.
Writing them off now is wrong, but the pitch conditions at Gliderol Stadium will be very similar to those in the middle of the Adelaide Oval. India might be physically ready, and the few extra days will be extremely beneficial for the entire side, but the mental preparation is another story.
Why India can win
Motivation is a powerful thing in sport. India has batsmen who are capable of hitting big hundreds without much difficulty. Varun Aaron will enjoy the bouncy hard wickets, and after such a diabolical tour in 2011/2012, the tourists will want to redeem themselves.
Critics might say MS Dhoni is the anchor to the team. In tests, one-dayers or Twenty20s, his ability to rapidly change the dynamic of the game is something to behold. Nevertheless, the team does not really on him and has plenty of balance to fill the void
Why it will be difficult
Australia’s bowlers will make India’s life as hellish as possible. Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson are back to haunt batsmen this summer, and on fast, bouncy pitches, they will enjoy nothing more than putting a few at the toes.
India have to come out with aggression, as Kohli pointed out on Monday. If they don’t, potential disaster awaits.