Monday, 28 January 2008

Sehwag's return shows Australia have much to fear come October

It may have ended with a day of anticlimax, but this Australia-India series continued the rich tradition of recent encounters between the two sides. After batting meekly in Melbourne, India matched Australia over the next three encounters. Only a combination of egregious umpiring decisions and Michael Clarke's outrageous over cost them a draw - at least - at Sydney, which would have seen a repeat of the 1-1 draw down under four years ago.

Either way, it is clear this is now cricket's premier rivalry, with Ashes clashes too often one-sides, and India-Pakistan games too often run feasts lacking real quality. We will not have long to wait for the sequel either; Australia's October tour promises to be another epic, with Adam Gilchrist's retirement leaving a gaping whole although, in truth, Brad Haddin will probably bat and keep better than Gillie has done since the start of the 2005 Ashes, averaging just 30 and dropping too many catches. Nonetheless, there is no denying his status as one of the greatest keeper-batsmen of all time; I named him in my Greatest Test XI.

In all likelihood, we will not witness too many changes in personnel before the next series, with a number of players on both sides - Matthew Hayden, who scored three hundreds in three matches, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, who were both a touch disappointing - perhaps considering making it their last series. Sachin Tendulkar, with a pair of resplendent 150s, should certainly not be amongst them. Happily, Adelaide marked the resurgence of Virender Sehwag after two years of mediocrity. His flashing blade will prevent India repeating the mistake of this series, when Dravid and Wasim Jaffer began the series scoring excruciatingly slowly, handing the initiative to Australia immediately.

That was gratefully seized by Brett Lee, who has now recorded consecutive Man of the Series awards, and is, belatedly, mastering consistency and becoming the consummate fast bowler. However, Mitchell Johnson was erratic at times, Stuart Clark's effectiveness lessened as the series progressed while Brad Hogg's Test career could now be over after receiving brutal treatment from the Indians. For once, Australia's batsmen did not have it all their own way either; India will have delightful memories of how they capitalised on Hayden's absence at Perth. In Ishant Sharma, they have unearthed a prodigious pace-bowling talent, while Irfan Pathan, like Sehwag, seems rejuvenated. Throughout, Anil Kumble led by proud example, bowling with tremendous guile and willpower, and batting with courage and real skill.

As India were twice skittled for sub-200 scores in the opening Test, it was hard to envisage them seriously challenging Australia thereafter. But, testament to the mental fortitude that exists within the side, that is what they did. Australia remain number one, of course, but their golden age is yellowing round the edges. Role on October, when India's band of ageing greats have a genuine chance of adding to their sensational 2001 triumph.

1 comment:

Straight Point said...

his impressions were visible in two tests he played...i think our selector should take the responsibility and leave office for not including him from start...

you can not select people like sehwag only to warm bench...

aussies crack have started to appear...first time they were in real pressure after the retirements of GM and SW and it showed on them

they don't have quality fourth bowler be it pace bowler and more importantly spinner...

they also got the glimpse of what will be the life after hayden...

and finally i think that gilly's retirement is going to hurt them more than the combined retirements of GM and SW...

all in all lots of uneasy questions...