Team India aim to bounce back at Sydney
And India would be aiming for another one of those turnarounds at the SCG, hoping that veteran Sachin Tendulkar gets his eagerly-anticipated but elusive 100th international century to lead the way. Their fine past record at the SCG, which will incidentally host its 100th Test, should give the Indians the confidence that was dented by the thrashing at Melbourne.
Australia doesn`t intend to depart from the tested theory of aggressive bowling in seaming, helpful bowling conditions which served England so brilliantly this summer and is likely to yield rich dividends to Michael Clarke`s men this time around.
As the Indian batsmen refuse to let go deliveries outside the off-stump or look for bowlers to get into their fourth and fifth spells, the wait on team getting to their 300s is becoming interminably long.
The hosts have retained the same eleven that did duty in Melbourne, which means Nathan Lyon will get another opportunity to prove his worth. The Indians have not yet announced their playing eleven but indications are that Virat Kohli may be persisted with.
In 11 Tests since the series against South Africa in 2010-11, India has crossed 400 only once on foreign soil. There have been only two scores in excess of 300.
In the last 10 Test innings, their best was the just-about 300 they managed at Oval this summer. All those centuries and thousands of runs and those carefully built reputations are just about that much worth.
And they should not expect any respite at the SCG, where the `Monkeygate` scandal put the two team`s relationship on a razor`s edge in 2008. The two protagonists of the ugly drama-Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds- are not around this time and therefore it is expected to be controversy-free.
Australia have made public their plan to dry up runs for the Indians. Coach Mickey Arthur has mocked the Indians` inability to play through maiden overs.
It starts with the top where Gautam Gambhir can`t help but go for those dab shots to deliveries leaving his off-stump and Virender Sehwag, who wouldn`t just leave those away deliveries and let them go through to the wicketkeeper.
The middle order of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman would go the other extreme of playing maidens after maidens. The looks of Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are of batsmen who don`t back themselves to spend long minutes at the crease.
Only Tendulkar was reassuring at the MCG but it`s a moot point what a solitary batsman alone can do when it is taking 11 Australians to scratch together competitive scores.
The other issue with India is the roadblock they these days hit against the tailenders. Often, the top order of the rivals is accounted for only for the tail to wag for long hours. At MCG, the tail added no less than 221 runs for Australia.
A lot of it is being blamed on skipper Dhoni himself and his tendency to spread the field at the sight of tailenders. The runs consequently leak all around and before long, the tailenders grow roots at the crease.
An important psychological point often missed is that a defensive field makes the bowlers bowl defensively too. It`s not a very sound theory when the wicket is as helpful as the MCG was or the SCG is likely to be.
Tendulkar averages 221-odd and Laxman 96-odd from their outings at the SCG. The conditions at the venue would now be vastly different even though sun would be out on all five days.
The pitch at the SCG these days is vastly different from its traditional sub-continent like surface. Spinners have taken only 12 of the 57 wickets in domestic competition at the SCG this summer. Indian bowlers perhaps would do their job-more so if they happen to bowl first in really difficult batting conditions the SCG is likely to offer on the first day.
Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma are likely to get better and Ashwin would have more purchase from the surface. Yet it would be folly to believe that the Australians, especially their top order, wouldn`t have learnt from their mistakes of the MCG.
At the base, the issue is how the Indian batsmen can turn around the corner. The last two days have been spent pondering; the next two in lead-up to the Test would be used in practicing those ideas at the nets.
There is no example better than that of Tendulkar himself who has spent hours facing the outswingers at high speed from the bowling machine during nets on this tour.
Indians would have to force the Australians to bowl to their strength rather than fall for their plan. In that alone rests the chance of a revival. Otherwise, it`s a depressing start to the new year for the tourists.