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A battle of the supreme and the proud!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Shirin Sadikot
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Thanks to India’s top ranking on the ICC charts, the BCCI has sneaked in two more Tests for Dhoni’s men, at the expense of another long and pointless seven-ODI series. After a procession of matches against Sri Lanka and Twenty20 frenzy, Indian cricket fans will be drooling at the prospect of an intense battle between two of the strongest contemporary adversaries.


The seeds of rivalry were sown in 2001 when Sourav Ganguly’s fearless India came back hard at Steve Waugh’s ‘invincibles’ – with bat, ball and words – to deny him the final frontier. © AFP

The bitter history on the cricket field between India and Australia in the last decade has made the rivalry the spiciest of all – sometimes, even fiercer than the Ashes battle. It may be a series of just two Tests, but holds extreme importance for various reasons.

The seeds of rivalry were sown in 2001 when Sourav Ganguly’s fearless new India came back hard at Steve Waugh’s ‘invincibles’ with bat, ball and words. Since then, every single series between the two nations has been a gripping encounter.

Things went from intense to ugly during the 2007-08 series Down Under with the Harbhajan-Symonds row and now, it’s become a bit like the India-Pakistan contests, where the cliché ‘just another game’ is as superficial as oil floating on water. Deep within players from both teams take the field with extra fire and they just don’t want to lose to each other.

Moreover, it will be the first time that Australia will be up against an Indian team that is not only placed above them in the ICC Test rankings but also rules the Test world. Not that it would matter much once the two teams take the field but knowing the Australians, one can rest assured, they’re not too comfortable sitting on the fourth step of the ladder. They’ll do whatever it takes to climb up. Defeating India in their in their own backyard will elevate their rankings as well as their Aussie ego, which took a lot of battering during their 0-2 defeat in 2008.

 
After the gloomy stories of deliberate no-balls, spot-fixing and mud slinging, cricket fans will now get some hard fought cricket Test played by two of the world’s strongest and most aggressive teams.
 

Also, Ricky Ponting has come here with a young side, expected to settle down by now from the transitional period the team is going through since the retirement of some of their stalwarts. A successful tour to India will do a world of good for them before they prepare to host an extremely strong England later in the summer.

Yes, the Indian tour is not a perfect dress rehearsal for the a Test series in Australia, but if you succeed in the tough Indian conditions against the hosts ranked the best in the world, it can surely give you the confidence of taking on your archrivals in your home conditions.

Also, Ponting, who seems a shadow of the batsman he was three years ago, cannot find a better opportunity to iron out his shortcomings before facing the likes of Anderson, Broad and Swann in November. The flat Indian tracks will aid him in his endeavour and his not so impressive average of 20.85 in India will spur him on to leave the country adding significantly to the one Test century he’s got here.


The Harbhajan-Symonds row went a long way in creating intense on-field rivalry between the players and a sense of animosity among the fans of both nations. © Getty Images

For India both the responsibility and pressure doubles up. Not many teams have beaten them at home and given their strength on the paper, a defeat at the hands of the inexperienced Australian team will not go down too well.

Moreover, along with the skill, the Indian players will also be tested from the fitness point of view. Several of the players – Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth – have suffered some or the other niggles of late. With a grinding season ahead the players must keep themselves in the best shape and form for the World Cup.

The series will give another chance for Dhoni and the team management to zero in on the crux of India’s World Cup probables, especially on the bowling front.

More than anything else, the two-Tests and three-ODIs will go a long way in healing the scathed spirit of cricket, harmed immensely during the England-Pakistan series. After all the gloomy stories of deliberate no-balls, spot-fixing and mud slinging, the cricket fans all over the world can do with some hard fought cricket Test played by two of the world’s strongest and most aggressive teams.

India versus Australia – bring it on!


 


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