Don't be fooled: India are vulnerable

Martin Smith February 12, 2013, 2:13 pm

If you believe most of what you read, Australia faces an uphill battle if they want to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India.

A home summer dominated by injury and retirement has resulted in more questions than answers leading into the four-match series.

Combine that with a horrible record in the sub-continent and a squad that is more about quantity than quality and Australia have been installed as rank outsiders to claim just their third-ever series win in India.

But while Australia's side is in a worrying state of flux, India's fortunes don't appear to be much brighter.

Less than two years after they sat atop the Test rankings, India are currently the fifth-ranked team in the world.

Their most recent series was an historic home defeat to an impressive England side, which exposed many deep-seeded problems within Indian cricket.

And their 15-man squad for the first two Tests of this series reflects their uncertainty; a small core of young players who they hope will take them into a new era, combined with ageing veterans and untested youngsters.

Of the batsmen who tasted Test action in Australia last summer, only Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli remain.

With his 40th birthday around the corner, Tendulkar is desperately trying not to follow Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman into retirement.

Despite his greatness (and let's not forget where the Little Master stands in the history of world cricket), the fact remains that Tendulkar hasn't scored a Test century for over two years.

The knives were being sharpened during the England series and some more low scores against Australia will likely signal the end of one of the greatest careers of all time.

Sehwag too is a shadow of the batsmen who tormented bowling attacks for over a decade.

The opener's century against England in November was his first in over two years and kept the wolves at bay. But like Tendulkar, another run of low scores could possibly see him join Dravid and Laxman on the scrapheap.

Kohli was the one Indian batsman who stood up to the Aussies last summer and despite a disappointing series against England, will relish the challenge of playing the Australians again.

Along with Kohli, the batsman who will have tourists' bowlers most on edge is a man unknown to a lot of Australian fans - 25-year-old Cheteshwar Pujara.

Pujara scored an impressive 72 on debut against Australia back in 2010, before quickly falling from favour with a string of low scores.

But his return to the side in August has yielded three massive hundreds in six Tests and he could prove to be an immovable object at first drop.

Murali Vijay, whose lone Test hundred came against Australia in 2010, is expected to replace the out-of-form Gautam Gambhir at the top of the order, which would relegate the uncapped duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan to the role of reserve batsmen.

Vijay played the last of his 12 Tests over 18 months ago and with a Test average of just over 30, he will be under immense pressure to grab his chance.

Skipper MS Dhoni is always a dangerous proposition and he will be desperate to reverse his poor record against Australia, which has yielded just five half-centuries from 23 innings.

India's bowling attack is unsurprisingly dominated by spin, but this is as much about necessity as it is about desire.

Leading speedsters Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav are out injured, meaning the inconsistent Ishant Sharma will carry the pace attack along with uncapped pair Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda.

Sharma burst onto the scene in 2009 with several blistering spells against Australia, most memorably one that accounted for Ricky Ponting in Perth. But with a Test average approaching 40 and the patience of selectors wearing thin, Sharma may well have been on the outer for this series had injury not struck.

Of the four spinners in the squad, Harbhajan Singh will create the most interest down under.

Volatile, provocative and often unplayable, Harbhajan is far from the bowler he was when he almost single-handedly won a series against the Aussies back in 2001.

But with 81 wickets in 12 Tests against Australia in India, there is little wonder 'The Turbanator' this week labelled the Aussies 'his favourite team'.

Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha carried the majority of the spin-bowling workload against England and will be tricky to handle on pitches that favour their finger spin.

Ditto left-arm all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who only made his Test debut in December despite a lengthy one-day international career.

Jadeja batted at No.7 in his debut, pushing Dhoni up to No.6 and allowing India to play three frontline spinners and just one paceman.

Pitch conditions for this series are likely to be as dry and dusty as the Simpson Desert, so that line-up could well be replicated when the first Test begins on February 22.

Follow @martinsmith87 on Twitter

Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c), Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh

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  1. David04:25pm Tuesday 12th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Martin Smith i agree with you 100% i like your ubiased views and thoughts thank you so much it's appreciated!

  2. David04:26pm Tuesday 12th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse


  3. David12:05pm Thursday 14th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    why are all the other comments deleted?

  4. nasing10:57am Tuesday 19th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Scrap heap! You must be out of your depth. Both Laxman and Dravid called it a day on their own disappointing the selectors and much of India. You probably would end up in the scrap heap of reporters who get carried away by their own verbosity.