IN FOCUS – The Border-Gavaskar Trophy (Australia in India) 2012-13 : Preview

  Two teams in a rebuilding phase will lock horns against each other in the latest round of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which will be a 4-Test series from February 22 to March 26. Australia are the current holders of this coveted trophy, having ruthlessly crushed India 4-0 at home in 2011-12. Clashes between the two nations have always been great to watch, and this time it should be no different, the relative inexperience of both teams notwithstanding.

india-vs-australia-2011-12

The Matches

  The series will commence with the opening Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk) in Chennai from February 22-26, closely followed by the second Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad from March 2-6. Battle will resume after a week-long break with the final two Tests at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali (March 14-18) and the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi (March 22-26). Chennai, then Madras, was the venue of the tied Test between the two countries in 1986-87. The second Test was originally slated to be hosted by Kanpur, but lack of adequate facilities meant that the game was shifted to Hyderabad. The last time Australia won a Test at either of these four venues was back in 1969-70, when they won at Chennai. Two of India’s last four Test wins over Australia have come at Mohali. 

Head To Head and Recent Record

  Of the 82 Tests contested between Australia and India, Australia hold a clear edge, winning 38, losing 20, drawing 23 and tieing 1. Of these, 42 Tests have been played in India, where the hosts hold a small advantage, winning 15, losing 12, drawing 14 and tieing 1 (comparatively, India have a woeful record in Australia, winning only 5 of 40 Tests). The latest edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was played in Australia last season, where the hosts regained the trophy they had lost in 2008-09 by whitewashing India 4-0. India themselves had regained the trophy after successive home wins in 2008-09 (2-0 in 4 Tests) and 2010-11 (2-0 in 2 Tests). The last time Australia won a Test in India was 7 Tests ago, when they won by 342 runs at Nagpur in 2004-05 to clinch a series win in India after 35 years.

Form Book and Ranking

  I might have said earlier in the post that both teams are in a rebuilding phase, but their respective recent form could not have been more different. Australia are coming off a 3-0 sweep of Sri Lanka at home, and even though they lost the home series to South Africa 1-0, they had clearly controlled the two drawn Tests and could well have been the Test champions by now had it not been for South Africa’s resistance. Under the dynamic Michael Clarke, Australia have lost only one out of seven series, and only one out of eight overseas Tests. They are currently ranked 3rd, with a mere one rating point away from taking England’s 2nd place. On the other hand, India (ranked 5th), plummeted to a new low when they lost the home series to England 2-1. As if the twin overseas disasters of last season were not enough, this home loss was India’s first such instance in 8 years. MS Dhoni’s side has lost 10 and won 5 out of its last 17 Tests, with their only wins coming at home against lower-ranked West Indies and New Zealand.

vbk-Ojha_jpg_1274281f         Pragyan Ojha will lead the Indian bowling attack, and is expected to play a huge role in the series (source – thehindu.com)

Players To Watch Out For

  India’s left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha was expected to play second fiddle to offie Ravi Ashwin in the series against England, but the end he was the one who was the only Indian bowler whose performance was up to the mark. Ojha took a joint-highest 20 wickets in that series, and is now regarded as India’s first-choice spin option. In fact, he can be expected to open the bowling on the turning tracks in this series. Given how they struggled against spin in the warm-up matches, the relatively inexperienced Australian batting line-up has to be at its very best if they hope to master Ojha. If there is one man who can on his own be the difference between the two seemingly even sides, it is Michael Clarke. The Australian captain had an outstanding 2012, and he is also much more well-versed with the Indian conditions compared to the rest of his teammates – he had indeed scored a hundred on Test debut on the 2004-05 Indian tour. Plus he was in red-hot form the last time he played against India. Easily the best player of spin in his team, it looks as if captaincy has enhanced his batting capabilities. Not to mention his slow left-arm spin, which can prove to be tricky for India’s shaky middle-order.

aap_3433_15Nov_MichaelClarke_800x600    Australia skipper Michael Clarke will look to achieve what Alastair Cook did in India a few months ago, both as batsman and captain (source – sbs.com)

Prediction

  It would be absolutely foolish to write off Australia’s chances even after their mediocre showing in the practice matches, because the Test series will be a fresh start. India, who perhaps underestimated England’s ability to play spin a few months back, would do well not to repeat that mistake. While both the batting line-ups look fairly evenly matched, it will boil down to which bowling unit is more capable of taking 20 wickets – spin and pace clearly being India’s and Australia’s respective strengths. I expect a well-contested series, and a possible 1-1 result. 

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