India vs Australia 3rd Test Preview

India vs Australia | Thursday 14 March | Mohali | 06:00

With the Australian camp in a state of disarray; beaten, broken and now divided, the Indians are only one step away from wrapping up a simple series. The Indian side is not without its own misadventures but these seem to be overshadowed by the breakdown in the Australian line-up. It seems the high expectations of the side constantly reinforced by the likes of Clarke and Arthur are a bit unrealistic with the players at their disposal and the conditions they find themselves in. Australia have only won one series in India in the last forty years, were they really expecting a resounding victory this time around? Perhaps they merely wanted to put up a better fight.

To Win:
India 5/4
Draw 5/4
Australia 5/1

It was business as usual for the Indian side in the second test, as they dismantled the Australians to emerge an innings and 135 run victors. The entire test was a blueprint for the way the Indians go about constructing a victory on the subcontinent against sides unfamiliar with the slow conditions. Australia elected to bat and were quickly in trouble as Bhuvneshwar Kumar made use of the early conditions to eliminate the Australian top order. From this moment on it was all about the spinners, as Harbhajan, Ashwin and Jadeja picked up the remaining scalps, bar one. Clarke’s unconventional first innings declaration sent the Indian openers in for a tricky three overs, which they survived.

After the dismissal of Sehwag, Vijay and Pujara put on 370 for the second wicket. Their secret? Patience. They played straight, put away the bad balls and when scoring became tough, cherished their wickets. Vijay’s 167 was topped only by another double century from Pujara, who has become a veritable run-machine. All out for 503, with a lead of 267, it was another Ravi Ashwin masterclass five-for that put the game to bed. Australia were hopeless against his flight and guile on a traditionally dusty track, with extremely poor shot selection. It’s difficult to take many negatives from the Indian performance but the selectors - prone to axing established members of the squad of late - have reached the end of their tether with Virender Sehwag, who has been overlooked for the remainder of the series. Without a replacement named, it seems Shikhar Dhawan will slot into the opening batsman role. With a tour of South Africa looming, if Sehwag does not manage to regain his position in the team, it will mean a baptism of fire for the inexperienced Dhawan.

If one was to approach me with a question regarding the problems in the Australian camp, I’d ask how much time they had on their hands. It seems I could go on forever. Let’s start with the news making the headlines. Due to a failure to submit their homework on time, four players have been axed from the third test. Coach Mickey Arthur and his staff requested players submit reports of how they as individuals, and a team, could improve. Watson, Pattinson, Khawaja and Johnson failed to comply and have therefore been suspended. There has been much talk regarding it being the coach’s job to identify these problems, which I tend to agree with. However, I don’t believe Arthur was asking for it to slot into his future schedule. He needed the team to be introspective and take accountability for their actions. You know, think for themselves for a change. They were given a reasonable time frame to reflect and gather their thoughts. How hard could it really be? If you don’t have anything constructive, make it up. All the coaching staff and captain required was a thought process. In essence I agree with the measures taken to ensure a culture and work ethic among the squad, but whether it was wise to implement in the middle of test series that all and sundry knew they would surely lose with the squad at their disposal, is another question entirely. Would it not have been more prudent to follow the shame and embarrassment of what is sure to be a resounding series loss with an intensive training camp, or constructive team-building exercise where the same issues could be discussed at length, and in a group dynamic? For crying out loud, they have until June before their next bout of competitive cricket starts, bar the IPL. Australian players have always been late to join their franchises. Cricket Australia could have cracked the whip when it came to participation in that circus and focussed on the issues that are now conspiring to create a divide within the camp. Morale, despite what players may mention to the media, must be at an all-time low.

It gets worse. Matthew Wade is carrying an ankle injury and Brad Haddin is being made to fly out as cover. After the widespread punishment, if Wade fails to recover, Australia are left with twelve players to choose from. With the outside prospect of pace on offer in Mohali, Australia now are left with only two frontline quicks. It seems unlikely Dhoni will allow any semblance of pace and bounce to factor into the groundsman’s plans, but Australia can’t seem to produce a spinner able to utilise the turning wickets to his advantage. It’s a sorry state of affairs for Australian cricket right now, with tension and ego exacerbating the already tricky prospect of navigating the side through a transitional phase.

There has been talk of the wicket at Mohali being the liveliest in India and the best chance for the Australian pace bowlers to have some effect. While there may be some truth in this, Mohali is still phenomenal for batting and 50% of the tests played here have ended in draws. India haven’t lost a test here since the very first, in 1994 against a strong West Indian side, and I don’t see them slipping up against a weakened Australia. There seems to be little predicted in the way of rain.

BEST: Top Indian 1st Innings Batsman, Murali Vijay 9/2
It’s tough to bet against Pujara at this point in time, but with both batsmen in great form and Vijay offering the better price, I’ve settled on the Indian opener. He’ll be in a new partnership with Dhawan and will be forced to play the role of the mentor to the debutant. Expect big things from Vijay.

VERDICT: India 5/4
On home turf, the Indians are simply too strong for this Australian side. The plan to move Michael Clarke up the order may provide some stability as he is the only player who looks at all comfortable out in the middle, but no one else seems able to counteract the Indian spinners. It will take a gigantic effort as well as a defiance of the nature of Australian cricketers to win this one. The Australian batsmen just don’t have the natural patience or style to be successful here.

Maverick White

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