Fleming: Ind-Aus is the heavyweight title of Test cricket

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be defended by Australia starting October 9 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Former Australia fast bowler Damien Fleming spoke to cricketnirvana.com and spoke in detail on Australia’s chances, problems in the Indian camp, the new-look Aussie outfit and a lot more.


Is Border-Gavaskar Trophy bigger than the Ashes?

Damien Fleming says “Yes”

In the last two decades, the well-documented Ashes series has witnessed just two competitive Test series (1986 and 2005). In contrast, every India-Australia Test series with the exception of 1999-2000 has been bitterly fought. Is Border-Gavaskar Trophy bigger than Ashes?

Without doubt, isn’t it? We have witnessed an array of quality Test series between Australia in India over a lengthy period of time. It is quite rightly one of the heavyweight titles of Test cricket.

I think the great thing from India’s perspective is how competitive they were in Australia last year, and that is going to give them a lot of confidence going into this series. The Aussies on the other hand, are a developing team today, with plenty of players who have not played in India before.

The Ashes has always been the ‘most talked about’ rivalry in cricket with players from both teams getting particularly verbal as the series draws closer. How seriously do Australian players take the match-up against India? Listen

Very seriously I would have thought by now. India has grown into a giant in international cricket, both on and off the field. For the Aussies, dominating India in their own backyard is an amazing achievement. The key factor is the pitches; traditionally the Indian spinners have found the Aussies wanting. I think that’s the best way to go for the Indians again.

However there are good seamers like Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma besides others who are blossoming. The biggest weakness for us (Australia) is the retirements of Stuart MacGill and Shane Warne. Beau Casson is a young spinner who is finding his feet at this level.

Bryce MacGain is a 36-year old leg spinner from Victoria and a very consistent bowler in first-class cricket. He will tour India in all likelihood. Our middle-order is vulnerable against spin but as we have seen over the last few years, Indian pitches can seam and swing as well.

What was so different that Australia did in 2004 which helped them win a series in India after three decades? Fast bowlers Gillespie, McGrath and Kasprowicz were consistently troubling the Indian batsmen but the spinners were not that successful. Do you see the current Aussie attack doing the same?

I think high expectations hurt India badly in the 2004 series because they were strong against Australia in Australia in 2003-04. The Indians thought they could beat the Aussies quite easily at home. The Aussie seam attack was much disciplined and it really worked our way.

Everybody expected India to dominate the Australian bowlers. I feel the 2004 series is surely going to get India more prepared this time around. I feel the Aussies must surely go into the tour with more than just three seamers. I can foresee Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Bracken (if he plays) to play a big part for the visitors. Nathan Bracken primarily because of the varations that he has in the offing.

Ricky Ponting is arguably one of the greatest batsmen in contemporary cricket. However in the 8 Tests that he played in India, he averages 12.28 and boasts of a single half-century. Why has he failed so miserably in India?

I reckon if I was India I’d get all their bowlers to put a turban on their head since Ponting has had such a nightmare against Harbhajan over the years! It’s a funny one. In 2004, he was in supreme form going into the series but was injured and played just the solitary Test. In sport, in general, you have teams that you go better against. It happens in all sports. Sometimes there are venues you always excel in and others you don’t.

There is something about his career while playing in India. I feel it will motivate him more on this tour. I think Simon Katich must tour India since he did well in the 2004 series. I like to see David Hussey in the team too since he is a dynamite player of spin bowling. Australia have a few problems in general, it will be interesting to see the make-up of their side.

Matthew Hayden, who is obviously one of Australia’s mainstays in the batting, is suffering from a career-threatening achilles (heel) injury. How serious is the problem? Will he tour India?

Let us hope so. I was on that 2001 tour to India when Matthew Hayden made his mark and this is probably the last 12 or 18 months of his cricket career. It is a great opportunity for him to dominate the Indian bowlers one last time and it should motivate him enough to keep going. Achilles is a generic injury and does not have a cure as such. He will have to bear with it for the rest of his career.

He is such a physical presence and his sweeping and hitting over the top against the spinners is so important for Australia. I feel the Aussie middle-order has been vulnerable against the Indian spinners in the past and it is Hayden’s starts that have given them the edge. Another factor would be how well Brad Haddin goes since he’s trying to fill some giant shoes and it won’t be easy for him.

Australia’s new-look pace trio of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark have never featured in a Test match in India before. How fast would they be able to adjust to the conditions? Listen

All great players adjust, don’t they? Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson have played a fair bit of cricket in India before (in ODIs). Also touring India today is not like it used to be in the 90s when the wickets were very slow, flat and it was tough as a fast bowler to adjust to the lack of boubnce.

The pitches have a bit more of pace and bounce today. A good length is good on any pitch now. You have to be disciplined and patient to succeed in India – that’s what Kasprowicz, McGrath and Gillespie did well in 2004.

While bowling to Laxman and Tendulkar, they generally bowled wide off the crease, angled the ball in and kept a short mid-wicket and square leg in place at all times. It forced the batsmen to hit on the up and tactics worked for Australia. I think the team that is more tactical will win the 2008 Border-Gavaskar series in India.

The interesting thing for India is that they have a good battery for fast bowlers and I feel they have better swing bowlers than Australia, which is why they won at the WACA in Perth earlier this year.

There is a lot of talk in India that the fab four (Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and Dravid) may be forced to quit the game if they don’t succeed against Australia. How do you see it panning out?

Blood Rohit Sharma in and drop one of the Fab four, Fleming tells India
Firstly I loved the mould of those players – Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. As we have seen with the Aussies, they have been trying to faze the great players out slowly so that they don’t lose four at one go. I think that is the danger for India – they don’t want to lose three or four great players together.

I think Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma are ready to go. You have to get one of them in there immediately. I think in cricket, you can get very old, very quickly. I think there needs to be a tough call from the Indian management – they need to get Rohit Sharma into the team since the Aussies have not seen too much of him and it could work in India’s favour.

How are the Aussies preparing for the tour? Listen

They have just had a camp in Queensland to lead into the Bangladesh series. They are trying to get a few more practice games in India but I don’t think the BCCI is going to come to the party. That’s fine – a little bit of gamesmanship coming through.

Like most teams, they are vulnerable coming off a rest, so they have to maximise most of practice sessions in Darwin or Brisbane – where it is hot and humid – to try and get pitches and conditions similar to India. They need to play virtually their entire line-up in that practice game in India, in order to hit the first Test running.

Final thoughts….

It is going to be a fantastic series. Even though Twenty20 cricket is flying, Test cricket is flying when India and Australia are playing.

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