India vs Australia: Surrender or counterattack

The message in the denouement at Melbourne and Sydney has been loud and clear. The portents are grim. The No. 2 ranking, after enjoying numero uno status, in Tests is on the line and fans are jittery.

Updated: January 10, 2012 18:03 IST
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The message in the denouement at Melbourne and Sydney has been loud and clear. The portents are grim. The No. 2 ranking, after enjoying numero uno status, in Tests is on the line and fans are jittery.

Is this going to be another heartbreak? Is the tour of Australia going to be another shame? Is an Ozwash in the offing after the 4-0 Pomwash (interrupted though by a facile win over West Indies at home)?

Is this going to be the series that will mark the start of the end of the road for three Indian legends - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman?

The questions abound. The answers cannot be found in press conferences or written text but on the field, in performances with willow and leather.

The Indian team landed in Australia, with the tag of being the favourites for a change but is now in disarray after two hammerings.

It is quite likely that the three legends will end their careers with the unfulfilled dream of winning a Test series Down Under. Incidentally, the careers of these giants of Indian cricket have been defined largely by their stellar showings against the Aussies.

India's batting in Melbourne and Sydney was mediocre and the bowling, barring Zaheer Khan and a promising effort in the first Test from others, was pedestrian. On the other hand, the Australian bowlers have stuck to basics, pitched the ball up and have dismantled the vaunted Indian batting with disconcerting ease.

India have so far managed to play a total of just eight days of Test cricket, failing to drag the matches into the fifth day.

Virat Kohli had booked a berth in the playing XI riding on a cracking century in the practice match but hasn't managed to get going when it mattered. He runs the danger of being known as the player who let his finger do the talking instead of his bat.

Rohit Sharma on the other hand, is biding his time on the sidelines. He must be hopeful of getting his Test debut at Perth. If he gets his break, he will require every ounce of the grit he has shown in the recent past to make it count on Australia's bounciest track.

India will be hoping Virender Sehwag begins to fire. If your openers are having starting trouble, even best laid plans will go awry more often than not. Destructive Sehwag's opening partner Gautam Gambhir gave the impression of having dug himself out of his form rut with a doughty and chancy 80-run knock at the SCG. While this gives some hope, some loose bricks have apparently appeared in 'The Wall' Dravid and the Australians are prising them out with glee.

India's go-to man in Tests for the last 14 years appears under siege. He has been out bowled six times in the last nine innings that he has played.

Mercifully, Tendulkar is looking in complete control of his game. If you can ignore the tiresome talk of his ton of tons (admittedly, a near impossible ask), his batting so far exudes the refreshing nature of yore. Each knock has been promising, holding the promise for a great one.

India cannot afford to go with the same team for the third Test and the team management has to take some bold decisions. Calls for giving left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha a go in place of R Ashwin are growing.

The Australian batsmen have torn Ashwin apart, whose handy performances with the bat are holding him in good stead. But, isn't he there to bowl?

The team is now finding itself saddled with familiar tags such as 'slow starters' and 'tigers at home, lambs abroad'. However, the tags do necessarily indicate that India has the stomach for fighting back after exasperatingly conceding early ground on foreign soil in alien conditions.

MS Dhoni and his men have pulled rabbits out of the hat in the past. Will the magic happen in Perth?

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