Sunday, December 25, 2011


While writing the previous post I thought I would be comparing the probable starting XI’s of both the teams in this post. My laziness got the better off me yet again, this post got delayed and the Aussies made my life easier by announcing their playing XI in the interim. The Indian XI automatically picks itself. So the face off is now between the actual teams and not the probable teams. 

As far as the Kangaroos are concerned, it was always going to be a fight for two spots. One between Marsh and Dan Christian; the other between Mitchell Starc and Hilfenhaus. With the Australian coach Micky Arthur going on record to say that he would prefer playing an all rounder in the side to lend the extra bowling option and that bit extra to the balance to the side (“It is almost as if you are playing with 12 players,” he says. Pretty obvious, coming from Arthur as for the past so many years he has had the luxury of having one of the great all-rounders of the game, Jacques Kallis in his South African side), I fancied Dan Christian getting his first baggy green. But that was when there was a fitness concern with Marsh and he had not blasted his way to a magnificent 99* off 52 balls for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash. That innings sealed his place for the Boxing Day XI (Some would say not an ideal way to select a player at no.3 for a test match, but that is all they could do to gauge his form). The other one was relatively straight forward with Hilfenhaus being picked on experience ahead of Starc (although Starc would have added more variety to the attack being a left armer). Hilfenhaus has got a great chance to revive his international career after a disastrous Ashes summer last time around and he knows that it probably could be his last chance to redeem himself.

Having dissected the merits and demerits of both the teams in or heads, I say let the Face Off begin! For ease of comparison and assessment, I have divided the Face Off into five categories. So here we go:

Sehwag and Warner: The Destructive Duo
The Openers: In terms of batting traits, both sets of openers are pretty well matched. The Aussies have Warner, who is probably the only batsman in world cricket, who on his day can match Sehwag in terms of destroying the opposition attack (Chris Gayle might have something to say about it though). On the other hand there is Gambhir, who is gritty, always up for a contest and never bogged down. He is probably the most underrated cricketer among the India regulars but when the chips have been down, he has made huge contributions. He is an ideal foil for Sehwag. Warner’s opening partner, Ed Cowan, has come through the ranks this season and beat a lot of stiff competition to win his first Baggy green. He has been consistent; he is an accumulator and complements Warner well. What tilts the balance (to a great extent) in India’s favor is the fact that Sehwag and Gambhir have grown up playing together, play for the same club, same state and have been regular India openers in all 3 formats of the game for quite some time now. Apart from the boundaries (which are plenty), the way they sneak singles with minimal calling (only eye contact and a slight nod does it) is a treat to watch. They completely trust each other, enjoy each other’s company, bring the best out of each other and that accounts for a lot of their success. Warner and Cowan, coming from different states, have not played much together at all. Sehwag and Gambhir for me are 2 of the 4 players, whose performance will decide the outcome of the series from the Indian perspective. 

Australia's Nemesis: VVS Laxman
The Middle Order: Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman. This is one department where India outdoes every other team in world cricket by the sheer weight of numbers, class and experience. The only little concern was Virat Kohli, who has staked his claim and cemented his place at least for the first couple of tests by the virtue of his performance against the West Indies in the second innings at Mumbai (a classy 63) and more so, a brilliant 132 (out of a team total of 269) in the second warm up game in Canberra last week. Yes, Australia have Marsh, Ponting, skipper Clarke and Hussey. When on song, they too are potentially world class but they (collectively) simply don’t match up to the Indian middle order in terms of experience, quality and more importantly current form. Ponting and Hussey are playing with the axe hanging above them. A couple of bad showings and the axe is ready to fall. It is a big challenge for them and from the Indian perspective lets hope the bowlers can keep them quiet and not let them find form. Going into statistics here would be foolhardy, because the Indian numbers might just blow up my blog by their sheer weight and magnitude (and I can’t take that risk with a blog that is just 5 days old).

The Wicketkeepers: It is Captain Cool vs the Vice Captain over here (Yes guys, Haddin is the vice captain). But unfortunately, it’s another case of a mismatch. Agreed, Dhoni has not been in great batting form in Tests of late, whereas his one day form has been scintillating. He would desperately want to bring that form to the longer version as well. Haddin has also had a very forgettable run lately and he would want to correct that. The calm that Dhoni exudes, the control he brings to the proceedings, the fact that he has the best view of the game from behind the stumps, he is always in charge and absolutely impossible to ruffle; make him Team India’s greatest asset. On a related note, the kind of batsman he is, the day he becomes as devastative in Tests (probably like Gilchrist) as he is in ODI’s, and pushes his average into the high 40’s (or probably the early 50’s), he would end up making a difference of 50 to 100 extra runs per innings for Team India and from that day on India would be the most dominant force in world cricket in my opinion.

The Spinners: Its two finger spinners, Ashwin and Lyon in this category. Lyon is a decent spinner and does not have too many credentials with the bat. There is not too much in terms of variety either, but he is one of those guys who knows his limitations and will bowl within himself. But the Indian batting from top to all the way down are excellent players of spin and he needs to be wary of them (Warne, MacGill and Krejza will all vouch for what I am saying). Ashwin will extract bounce from these Australian wickets; plus he has a lot of variety and also a test hundred to his name. Those batsman who have not seen much of him, will struggle a bit against him initially. But it is not going to be easy at all for him. The pitches are not tailor made for spinners and he will have to work hard. From the evidence we have, he will do exactly that and trouble the Aussies as much as he can.   

The Quicks:  This is one department where the Aussies had the best chance of overpowering India. Although they would have loved to have Cummins in their ranks, Siddle and Pattinson more than make up for the pace. Hilfenhaus is making a comeback into the team. He knows it’s a very crucial opportunity for him with so much pace bowling talent in Australia coming through the ranks. He is a workhorse who will bowl long spells. But does he still have the control and ability to restrict the batsmen and be a potent weapon, only time will tell.  From the Indian viewpoint, with Zaheer and Ishant (they are other two alongside Viru and Gauti whose performance will decide the outcome of the series for India) fit and raring to go, and Umesh Yadav, a very promising prospect (pace with control, he could be what Ishant was 4 years ago, a relatively unknown entity and hence the wild card), it is a very promising attack. Zaheer has won test matches for India, a claim very few fast bowlers can make; Ishant was discovered in Australia, the tracks suit him and Umesh Yadav has pace and can move the ball at pace. Swing (and reverse swing) is what all three are capable of and that precisely, has been the Achilles heel for the Aussie batters (the whole Ashes campaign last year and the recently concluded Hobart test against the Kiwis are proof enough). The moment the ball starts moving, they are in all sorts of trouble. If these three get their act (and swing) going, India are definitely in for a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year.

I have tried to be as objective and unbiased as I can with my assessment (though a few of you may feel otherwise), but my take is India trump Australia in every department and if they perform to their ability, the Aussies are in for another long summer, like the one they had last year against England.

Those who thought this is not a fair assessment have not reached this point (they probably stopped reading this post half way through I guess). Those who have reached this point though, are the vast majority who, like me will be up early in the morning through the next 6 weeks, hoping, praying and quietly confident… that This Indeed is The Moment!         

My Next Feature: The story of a man who should have been on the flight to Australia!

PS: Thank You to all you guys who liked my first post and encouraged me to carry on. for those who did not like it, I will try to get better. A special thanks to Mayank Shah and Rupesh Sharma for their wonderful support and encouragement. Thank You guys once again! :-)   


  1. Nice one again.... And ya i read cmplt post :-P
    and i hope the next one is on irfan pathan ......

  2. yeah i know u read the complete ost.. and thanks for the encouragement.. And next one kis pe hai.. just wait n watch :p

  3. A very professional and succinct summary :)

  4. I agree with Jalpesh. Its very professonal. You should write more Mihir

  5. Carry on d good work buddy
    N I know d man whoz story u r gonna
    share in ur next blog...