D'Souza: Can India avoid another whitewash?

The tragic loss of talented batsman Phil Hughes sent shock waves around the world of sport but most of it was felt in the Australian dressing room just a week before the tour.

Warren D’Souza
by Warren D’Souza
15th December 2014

article:15th December 2014

All smiles: Phil Hughes' death has galvanised the Australia team to play some outstanding cricket against India.
All smiles: Phil Hughes' death has galvanised the Australia team to play some outstanding cricket against India.

The tragic loss of talented batsman Phil Hughes sent shock waves around the world of sport but most of it was felt in the Australian dressing room just a week before the tour.

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There were questions of fitness levels and concerns of mental strength. While Australians were being condoled and readied, India had their own problems, mainly the fitness of captain MS Dhoni, a young squad with very little experience abroad and obviously the poor away Test record.

Virat Kohli, who will captain India for the first time in Tests, promised aggressive cricket, the opposite of what Dhoni was criticized, for being defensive during recent times.

Undoubtedly, it is rare India suffer huge losses on home soil but the mind games had already begun. Aussie great Glenn McGrath believes India will suffer a 4-0 whitewash, a score-line they infamously achieved during the 2011-12 tour.

That dreadful tour brought a sad end to illustrious careers of some of the finest batsmen in Indian cricket history – Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

But the future was bright and showed signs of promise with emerging names like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav to name a few.

Ever since India toured Australia in 1947-48, they have never managed to win a series but have drawn thrice during 1980-81, 1985-86 and 2003-04.

However, Australia have been so dominant at home and showed little or no mercy towards all visiting teams. India, too, were victims of humiliation and utter defeat, suffering clean sweeps 3 times.

 

Past Glory

Since 2004, India’s record Down Under reads P9 W1 L6 D2 – a win-draw percentage of 33.33. Only South Africa performed better with 66.67%, while Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies are yet to win a Test.

The last decade has clearly been India’s most successful outing Down Under especially during the 2003-04 tour led by Sourav Ganguly.

'The first Test was drawn as rain played spoilsport but India played their best ever in the games that followed. India managed to win the second Test after Rahul Dravid’s hard-fought 72 runs helped them chase 230.

Not to forget, it was Dravid’s classy 233 and VVS Laxman’s special 148 that narrowed down Australia’s first Innings total. Anil Kumble’s 5-for and Ajit Agarkar’s 6 wicket haul were equally important as India led 1-0.

Australia won the third Test with relative ease thanks to Ricky Ponting’s double century, his second in the series.

Australia were expected to bid a fitting farewell to their retiring captain Steve Waugh, who would play his final Test at the SCG.

Nobody expected India to post 705/7, their highest score, with Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten 241 and Laxman’s classic innings of 178.

In reply, Justin Langer and Simon Katich scored tons but Kumble claimed 8 wickets and India did not enforce follow-on.

The nerve racking match went on till Tea on the final day with Australia four down and needing 238 to win. Waugh led the line with a patient 80 and stitched a 142-run partnership with Katich, who was unbeaten at 77, to save the Test.

India had moved on but those memories will live forever and a similar performance was expected from them during the 2007-08 tour.

Australia won the first Test by 377 runs and earned their 9th successive Test win at the MCG, the 100th Test played at the ground.

The hosts won the second Test with 9 minutes to Stumps, the most thrilling victory from the unlikeliest source of Clarke’s left-arm spin bowling.

But these historic wins were marred by controversy after the allegation that Harbhajan Singh had racially abused Andrew Symonds.

However, the series went on despite reports of cancelling the rest of tour and India not only emerged victorious in the third Test but also handed Australia their first Test defeat at the WACA in a decade. However, Australia drew the final Test and won the series 2-1.

Rahul Dravid scored a classy 223 during India's 2003-04 Down Under.
 

New Era

India suffered immense pressure having lost 4-0 earlier in England. But that pressure surged to higher levels when none of India’s batsmen were able to hang on to their wicket and bowlers toiled throughout the day without much success.

Critics blamed Dhoni for being defensive and negative while fans waved goodbye to legends Dravid and Laxman.

Having won the World Cup and too many seniors in the side, India were moving towards a massive transition but the tour had a few glimpses of positivity.

A young pace bowler Umesh Yadav had 14 wickets, one less than Zaheer Khan, including a 5 wicket haul and another youngster Kohli, scored the only century by an Indian in the last Test.  

A few retired while other players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh have been ignored for the current tour.

Dhoni, Kohli, Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha and R Ashwin are out there yet again to prove a point. It will certainly be hard but not impossible to emulate the heroics of the past decade.

The new young generation of players led by Kohli certainly has the quality to showcase but only time will tell if they can ever match their predecessors. 


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