An encounter to savour, India face Australia in four Tests this winter, starting at the MCG on Boxing Day. Neither side has had a great time of it in Test cricket in 2011, so it will be interesting to see how they start 2012.
The last time India toured Australia it produced one of the finest series of the 21st Century. There were spats on and off the field, there was racism, there was cheating, there were threatened walk outs.
Whilst a lot of what happened was far from positive (racism, for example, certainly isn’t positive) the cricket played was enthralling.
And India won in Perth. But for all the controversy, this is what would stand out from that series, rather than Harbhajan and Symonds having an on field tête-à-tête; rather than Ricky Ponting wildly celebrating after victory in Sydney; rather than India threatening to abandon the tour because the BCCI didn’t get its own way.
The remarkable thing about India’s victory on Australia’s west coast was the fact that it is so revered as a venue for pace, pace and pace. Something that India, traditionally, have lacked.
They were also 2-0 down in the series. It was the victory that truly set them on the path to usurp the Aussies atop to ICC’s Test rankings.
This time around, however, the forecast for good cricket looks diminished. India were completely destroyed and kicked when they were on the floor in England, and Australia are coming into the series having suffered their first defeat to New Zealand in 18 years.
Neither side looks completely comfortable with itself. Last time out India were in the ascendancy and Australia were still number one.
This time out, whilst there are many new faces, it is the old ones that dominate the build up talk. Can Ricky Ponting rediscover himself? Can Sachin Tendulkar make his hundredth international hundred? Can Rahul Dravid continue his good form from the English summer?
One thing is certain ahead of the series though – the cricket will be fascinating for all observers. Both sides are at various stages of rebuilding as they both look to return to former glories.
It may well be a case of which side is the least bad. Australia’s air of invincibility has well and truly gone thanks to losing the Ashes at home and drawing with New Zealand. Positive results in South Africa and Sri Lanka, however, point in a more promising direction.
India easily overcame the West Indies last month and can draw upon their 2-0 win at home to Australia last year.
As for a prediction, we’re going with India. They may have an inexperienced bowling attack but they way Australia have been batting of late, that may not matter. Australia will be hoping that new coach Mickey Arthur and his batman’s boot camp will pay dividends.
India’a batting line up can be formidable, although if the Hobart wicket from last week is anything to go by, Australia may look to take a leaf out of England’s book and destroy it with swing and seam.
Whilst that plan backfired against New Zealand, the emergence of James Pattinson and Pat Cummins has added firepower to Aussie reserves. Will it be enough to topple Dravid & co? We don’t think so.
3-1 India is our prediction
By Miles Reucroft