Aus in quest of final frontier

The ultimate tussle of contemporary Test cricket begins on Wednesday as Australia try for their first series win on Indian soil in 35 years.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
  • Total Shares


The ultimate tussle of contemporary Test cricket begins tomorrow as Australia launch a "well-planned" mission to conquer the 'Final Frontier" and record their first series win on Indian soil in 35 years. A Test series victory in India -- they last won under Bill Lawry in 1969-70 -- has eluded the world champions for long. And the visiting team's stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist would be keen to gain the upper hand in the much-anticipated four-match series with a victory in the first Test at the Chinaswamy stadium. Ganguly keen Despite a poor run in limited overs tournaments this season, India remain a formidable team at home and skipper Sourav Ganguly will draw inspiration from magnificent Test performances Down Under and the historic triumph in Pakistan not long ago. "Test matches are different. We have not batted well in the one-day version of the game (recently), I accept. But the Aussies bring out the best in us," Ganguly said. For the Australians, the stakes are high and the Indian tour is bound to test their resolve after an unimpressive run at the ICC Champions Trophy. But the men in baggy green have a 3-0 series win over Sri Lanka in their own backyard earlier this year to show for and it's a feat that keeps their morale and confidence high to a considerable extent. Ricky, Sachin absent The absence of injured Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar, who is virtually ruled out of the first Test because of a tennis elbow, has come as a disappointment to the high-profile series. But both sides insist that they have the talent to replace the star players. Tendulkar's absence is no doubt a big blow for India in the all-important Test opener that generally sets the tone for the series, which is tipped to be a high intensity one. Gilchrist said the team has planned well for the series and were thorough in their preparations. "We have a very, very well balanced squad. It really comes down to preparations, and we should really play well," the aggressive batsman said. India and Australia are raring to go at each other but weather forecast for the five-day game is not encouraging, with meteorological departments officials warning of rain interruptions. Spin factor The focus from Australian perspective is no doubt Shane Warne whose magic could spell doom to any side. The 35-year-old leg spinner, however, had failed to provide the winning edge to his team during the 1997-98 and 2000-01 tours of India. Warne has taken 527 wickets in 112 Tests but only 29 have come against India, that too at an unimpressive average of 55.44. "I am fully fit, stronger mentally and physically," said Warne who is set to surpass Muttiah Muralitharan's world record of 532 Test wickets during the series. Another leg spinner who is also close to a personal milestone is India's Anil Kumble, who is three short of 400 Test wickets. Along with Kumble, who took 24 wickets in the Australian tour, the man to watch out for India in the bowling department would be 'Turbanator' Harbhajan Singh, who proved to be the nemesis of Australians when they toured the country three years ago, with 32 scalps. "We will have a difficult time against them (Kumble and Harbhajan). Hopefully, we have plans to counter those bowlers," Gilchrist said. With the pitch at M Chinnaswamy Stadium expected to spin as the match progressed, Harbhajan and Kumble would be key to India's success, and the team dropped enough hints that it is likely to field the third spinner -- Murali Kartik -- as well. Game plan Australians would however rely on their traditional strength of pace, which looks formidable with Jason Gillespie, Glenn McGrath and Michael Kasprowicz in top form. The tourists are also taking comfort from the fact that they had won the Test when the two sides met here last time around, in 1998. The Australians have made no secret of their gameplan to target V V S Laxman and Rahul Dravid, the two batsmen who have excelled in the last home and away series between the two sides. And known to play "mind-games," the tourists have also talked about different plans for different Indian batsmen. India would persist with Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra for the opening combination. It would be a toss-up between Yuvraj Singh, who hit a hundred against Pakistan, and Mohammed Kaif, who has done well with the bat in recent times, to come in place of Tendulkar. Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan are expected to shoulder the fast bowling responsibilities. The Australian batting line-up also looks formidable with Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Gilchrist with middle-order support from vice-captain Darren Lehmann and Simon Katich. Hayden in fact had an average 108.9 during the last tour in India and Gilchrist said all the players have taken tips from the "demolition man". Teams: India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Aakash Chopra, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and Murali Kartik. Australia: Adam Gilchrist (captain), Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Simon Katich, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Glenn McGrath and Brad Hodge. (PTI)