Melbourne: Perhaps the biggest date on the Test cricket calendar, this year's Boxing Day match is a meeting between two flawed but fascinating teams. The dimensions of the flaws - Australia's brittle batting, India's slim bowling - create for plenty of intrigue.
Australia enter the match having lost a Test to New Zealand for the first time since 1993, and with the batsmen having been submitted for extra remedial work against the swinging ball. They are bolstered by the return of Shaun Marsh and the inclusion of the solid Ed Cowan, but will have to improve markedly in their resilience as a batting collective. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, the two thirty-somethings in the middle order, have the task ahead of them to prove they deserve to keep their spots after recent misadventures with the bat. They will hope for brighter days against India's attack.
Though Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma appear a formidable pace duo on the page, neither is at their peak due to ankle problems. Zaheer's has been recovering after surgery, while Ishant may yet require surgical work once the tour is over. Behind them are the slippery but inexperienced Umesh Yadav and the spin of R Ashwin or Pragyan Ojha, none of whom have played a Test in Australia. Ashwin's accuracy and variations have the chance of posing problems for the hosts, though the drop-in pitch at the MCG is not noted as for extremes of spin or deterioration.