The wheel of fortune has turned a full circle for India. Battered and bruised Down Under in the 2011-12 series, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Indian team have the opportunity to inflict a similar humiliation on Australia in the home series. History beckons India when they face Australia in the fourth and final Test at Ferozeshah Kotla Sta dium,starting from Friday. After winning three successive Tests, India will look to wrap up the series with a 4-0 rout.
Dhoni may not like to call it a revenge series but there will be immense satisfaction if India complete a series sweep. A struggling Michael Clarke, who is not still certain whether he will play or not, is hoping that his team would avoid the ‘Brownwash’. “We would like to end the tour on a winning note,” said an optimistic Clarke. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed,” he said about his participation in the game.
If Clarke leads and the team suffers a defeat here, he will become the second Australian captain after Bill Lawry to lose any series 0-4. Lawry and his team was handed a similar drubbing in the ‘troubled’ 1969-70 series against South Africa. It is troubled time for the Clarke-led team also. Apart from being out-batted and out-bowled in this series, the team’s infighting has not gone well with the team. In the event of Clarke not playing, Shane Watson, who was one of the four dropped players for the Mohali Test, will captain the side. If India hopped around in the last series in Australia, the Kangaroos have struggled in the spin-friendly tracks here.
Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher, who have learnt bitter lessons against the Alastair Cook-led England in the last home series, are spot on with their gameplans in this series. Dhoni has made the right choices and used the horses for courses method, which has clicked for India. Playing five bowlers with three spinners and two fast bowlers has paid rich dividends.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has rocked the Australian top order with his swing at the start and Ishant Sharma comes into picture with reverse swing once the ball gets old. The spinners get into the act once there is a grip on the wicket. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja have literally spun a web around the leaden-footed Australians.
Jadeja has made Clarke his bunny, dismissing him five times in six innings. This has been the biggest success story for India as Clarke has always been a dangerous batsman. Half the battle is won once Clarke is out as he is easily the best equipped batsman to play the spinners. The other Australian batsmen have failed to come to terms on the Indian conditions. There may be odd occasions when Moises Henriques or Ed Cowan or Phil Hughes played a fighting innings but otherwise it has been disappointing.
Batting late in the order, Mitchell Starc, who flew back to Australia with an injury, looked a much better batsman than the top order. As Cowan lamented their batsmen have not been able to convert the 30s or 40s to big scores or build up a big partnership. That has hurt the Australians a lot.
On the contrary, the Indian batsmen have made mincemeat of the Australian attack. There have been huge partnerships and the top order of Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan have punished the visitors’ attack. Vijay has back-to-back centuries, Pujara hit a double century and Dhawan hit a magnificent 187 on debut. It is unfortunate that Dhawan has to sit out at his home ground because of the hand injury. Pujara, in all probability, will open with Vijay. Ajinkya Rahane may finally get his Test cap and bat at No 3. But if Dhoni decides to play Suresh Raina then Rahane may warm the benches again. Australia is sure to bring back James Pattinson in place of Starc while Mitchell Johnson may replace Henriques.