The fuse has been lit for a potentially heated series between Australia and India, after the Aussies were savaged in a scathing recent article.
India will be without inspirational former captain MS Dhoni in their tour-opening, three-match Twenty20 International series that starts in Brisbane on Wednesday after the veteran wicketkeeper was rested by selectors.
However, Indian media suggests that Dhoni’s absence won’t be an issue against a “smug” Australian side going through a period of “turmoil.”
New Indian Express columnist Pradeep Magazine gave the Aussies an absolute pasting in a damning assessment of the state of cricket in the country.
“Australia, the land of the self-assured, and many would say smug, cricketers while playing on home territory, are today a nation in turmoil,” Magazine wrote.
“Their self proclaimed superior ‘sporting culture’ which they used to take immense pride in, is in tatters.
“Embarrassment has replaced the pride they used to take in playing the ‘Australian Way’, a euphemism for playing in a hard, overtly aggressive and arrogant manner, which gave primacy to the end result and cared little about the means adopted.”
“They are applying sharp-edged scissors to dissect an attitudinal problem that has been shaped by years of nurturing by the establishment.
“The psychological scars of a quick-fix approach to correct a systemic problem can cause greater damage than solving the problem.
“It is against this backdrop that the Indian team is embarking on this tour. For the first time in many decades an Indian team is going to play against an Australian side that is extremely low in morale and strength.
“Its batting is in shambles, struggling in the absence of two of their main pillars. There is a leadership crisis within and outside the team.
“For the Indians this is a real opportunity to plunge the dagger deep into their already wounded hearts. Nothing will give the Indians greater pleasure than seeing the Australians sink deeper into an abyss created by their own ‘misdeeds’.”
Allrounder’s absence to hit India hardest
Dhoni may be a glaring omission but coach Ravi Shastri says India will be hardest hit by allrounder Hardik Pandya’s absence in Australia.
Shastri believes Pandya’s withdrawal from both the T20 and four-Test series – starting in Adelaide on December 6 – with a back injury has created the biggest headache by upsetting team balance.
Dhoni, 37, has been replaced in the T20 squad by exciting ‘keeper Rishabh Pant, one of the 2018 Indian Premier League standouts.
Shastri says it remains to be seen how selectors would cover the absence of Pandya in Australia.
“One player we will miss is Hardik Pandya, who has an injury,” he said.
“He gives us that balance to the side as a bowler and a batsman which allows you to play that extra bowler – now we have to think twice.
“Hopefully he will get fit soon, the fast bowlers do well and we might not miss him too much.”
India have insisted that Dhoni, who retired from Tests in 2014, remains in their future T20 and limited overs plans.
And the big hitting gloveman may yet be sighted by Australian crowds in their three-game one-day series in January.
India are yet to name their ODI squad.
Dhoni’s 21-year-old T20 replacement Pant recently earned his Test and ODI debut after thrashing 394 runs at a strike-rate of 173.60 at the 2018 IPL.
But Shastri seemed more concerned about coping without Pandya.
He said the Indian attack would have to pick up the slack without the fast bowling all-rounder on Australian decks that have not been kind to them in the past.
In fact, India have struggled overall in Australia, winning just five of 44 Tests played Down Under since 1947.
They have never won a Test series in Australia.
India have brought world-class spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav on the Australian tour along with seamers Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
The batting will again be led by captain Virat Kohli and his T20 deputy Rohit Sharma but all eyes will be on 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw who last month became the youngest Indian to score a century on Test debut.
World No.2 India are overwhelming favourites for their tour opening T20 series starting in Brisbane on Wednesday after winning 10 of their 15 overall clashes against Australia in the shortest form.