In 1998, it was about Shane Warne’s craving for baked beans and tinned spaghetti, and his apparent dislike for “exotic cuisine”. Three years later, Australia were here to conquer the ‘Final Frontier’. They did, albeit in 2004, after the hosts were robbed of Tendulkar’s services owing to a tennis elbow and Ganguly’s aversion to all things ‘green’. The 2008 series was about bidding goodbye to Jumbo and Dada. Two years later, it was about India’s newfound desire to play more and more Tests, DRS and Pujara. So what’s 2013 about? Errrr, nothing thus far!
Pre-series buzz, what’s that? Fathom this: the first Test is just 11 days away and as many as seven members of the 17-strong squad, including skipper Michael Clarke, are yet to touch base. In fact, Australia have barely 11 players for their two-day practice match against Abhinav Mukund-led Board President’s XI starting on Tuesday at the Guru Nanak College Ground in Velachery.
Ashton Agar, a 19-year-old left-arm spinner here on ‘nets duty’, will also play! The Western Australian, so to speak, is more famous for his Sri Lankan roots than his bowling.
And to add to the lack of buzz, stand-in skipper Matthew Wade refused to get dragged into what we call pre-series big talk. Isn’t this the best time to play India in India? After all, their form is flaky. They’ve lost to England in the Test series and to Pakistan in the ODIs.
“There were a lot of people saying that when South Africa came to Australia and when Sri Lanka came to Australia. We used that to fuel our fire a bit, but there’s no way (I would say) coming to India is easy. It’s going to be a tough series, especially in these conditions,” the dashing wicketkeeper-bat said with a chuckle ahead of the team’s training session at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Talk of India’s hitherto unknown inability to play quality tweakers and Wade was quick to say that even England’s pacers had made merry. “I saw a bit of the England series and I think, in the last Test especially, the England quicks took a lot of wickets. So, we’ve got a great fast bowling attack to be honest, we’ve got (Peter) Siddle, (James) Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, along with a couple of spinners. I’m not sure which way we’ll go but I’m sure the quicks will do a good job. The reverse swing is a big thing in India as well,” he said.
Wade, richer after having received tips from the great Ian Healy, is glad Australia don’t have to get Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman out twice in a Test. “(But) the guys in the Indian team, they’re very, very good batters. Very experienced, especially in these conditions. We know how hard it is to win in India. So, we’ve got to work hard in the next 10-15 days to be ready to go in the first Test match.”
One after another
- The Australians arrived in batches. The first batch of eight — E Cowan, J Bird, J Pattinson, M Henriques, N Lyon, P Siddle, S Smith and U Khawaja — arrived in Chennai last Thursday
- The second batch of M Wade, G Maxwell, D Warner and nets bowler A Agar landed on Saturday last
- The remaining six of M Clarke, S Watson, X Doherty, P Hughes, M Johnson and M Starc are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday
- S Watson, X Doherty, P Hughes and M Johnson played in the fifth and final ODI against the West Indies in Melbourne on Sunday (Feb 10)
THE LIKELY XI
Board President’s XI: A Mukund (C), R Uthappa, A Rayudu, M Singh, K Jadhav, P Patel (WK), S Binny, S Ladda, P Rassol, M Shami, P Awana. 12th man: K Makwana;
Coach: L Rajput
Australians: M Wade (C & WK), E Cowan, G Maxwell, J Bird, J Pattinson, M Henriques, N Lyon, P Siddle, S Smith, U Khawaja, A Agar
Umpires: S Asnani, Nandan; Match referee: S Sharath