Australia have not won a Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla since 1959. And with skipper Michael Clarke still not sure of playing the fourth and final Test starting on Friday, it is unlikely that Australia’s fortunes will change. India, on the other hand, are aiming for an unprecedented whitewash.
Australia will be playing their seventh Test at the venue where they have only managed to win a single Test, under the captaincy of Richie Benaud in the late 1950s. The Kotla track has hardly undergone any change. This despite the frequent experiments it has undergone.
“This wicket will be a like any other wicket where you cannot expect the ball to rise above the knee,” a groundsman told DNA, adding, “The Indian team management has asked for a slow turner.” Is anyone surprised?
No member of the Australian team has the right to complain, though. Despite winning three consecutive tosses, the visitors have failed to put the runs on the board.
India, of course, are riding the crest of success. The home advantage notwithstanding, India have shown tremendous courage by implementing their gameplan. Apart from Clarke (135 and 91), no other Aussie top-order batsman has learnt to deal with the Indian spinners. On two occasions, they even surrendered to the swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
In 1959, Neil Harvey’s 114 and skipper Benaud’s eight wickets had helped Australia defeat India by an innings. But this time around, none of the three specialist spinners — Steve Smith, Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon — have the quality or character to take 20 Indian wickets.
“Look, we’re trying to get the best out of our spinners, that’s for sure. I think the conditions have been quite conducive to spin bowling. We’ve experienced that as a batting line-up and I think our spin bowlers continue to get better, which is really exciting for us,” skipper Clarke said.
Clarke, however, has some fond memories of his last outing at the Kotla. He had hit a century in the drawn Tests of 2008. For India, Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman had cracked double tons in the high-scoring encounter.
Australia have run out of weapons in the arsenal. And there is no certainty over what bowling combination Clarke would prefer going into the last match of the tour. Watson will make his way back into the XI, irrespective of whether he captains or not, but who’ll replace the injured Mitchell Starc.
James Pattinson will, in all likelihood, share the new ball with the experienced Mitchell Johnson. A similar problem besets the hosts, too, who have to find a substitute for Shikhar Dhawan, out with a finger injury.
With Ajinkya Rahane in the squad, India should ideally not be looking in any other direction. But because the prolific Mumbai batsman was originally chosen as middle-order batsman, there is a possibility that he would be asked to come in at No 3 behind M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara.
The bowling combination could be an unchanged one as Dhoni hinted after the third Test in Chandigarh that “Pragyan Ojha should be given as many opportunities like Harbhajan Singh”.
Despite being in the Indian squad for close to one-and-a-half years, Rahane has been made to wait for his Test cap. He can only count himself unlucky that as many as seven other newcomers — R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, R Vinay Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan — have ‘overtaken’ him.
And even if the selectors dropped Virender Sehwag and Gambhir, Rahane was still made to serve drinks. Rahane’s time has come. Wonder what Dhoni thinks.