It’s time for the traditional Boxing Day Test, at Melbourne, with India taking on a confident Australian unit that holds a 2-0 advantage in the ongoing bilateral Test series.
India’s last victory at the MCG had come way back 1981. Since then, the ground has been a fortress for the Australians. Come tomorrow, arguably one of the most important days in Australia’s cricket calendar, the hosts would like to continue the good results that they have traditionally achieved on this ground.
India – in a spot of bother
India’s troubles have been mounting by bits and pieces ever since the team ventured into the Test series a couple of weeks ago. While the individual performances from Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane have inspired confidence in patches, the collective team effort that is necessary to see the team through to a match winning (or atleast a match saving!) effort has been largely missing. Shikhar Dhawan’s gritty half century in the second innings at Brisbane did earn him some confidence, but it needs to be complemented with more regular performances in the rest of the series, for India to have a stable foundation at the top. Question marks on Rohit Sharma’s place in the Test team shall persist as long as he keeps throwing his wicket away, when the team needs him the most. Cheteshwar Pujara would now hope to convert some of his solid starts into big scores, which have not come in the series so far, leading to a severe shortage of runs in the Indian middle order.
More than the batsmen, it has been the sorry figure cut by the Indian bowlers that has landed India in a mess in this series. At best, the Indian quicks have managed to hold sway over the opponents for a couple of sessions in a day, following which they have either fallen prey to usage of wrong tactics or have been found helpless in the face of resilience from the Australian lower order. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is expected to have recovered from his injury by now, and media reports strongly hint at his inclusion in the side tomorrow. Given Bhuvi’s stellar show with the bat and the ball in England, just a few months ago, one would expect him to provide the stability that the Indian bowling and lower order need at this point.
Indian tail must wag!
A mere look at the runs scored by the last 5 batsmen in the Indian and Australian ranks speaks volumes about the way the series has unfolded so far. While the Indian lower order has found it extremely hard to last more than half an hour, their Australian counterparts have more or less decided the results in both Adelaide and Brisbane with incredible performances with the bat. It is high time the Indian tail takes a batting lesson or two from Johnson, Starc and Lyon – for that shall strongly determine whether or not India is able to turn the tables on the hosts in Melbourne.
Australians have the momentum
This might perhaps be an overstatement, but the Aussies do hold the upper hand in the series right now, and their morale ought to be peaking on the eve of the 3rd Test match. Steve Smith’s captaincy has been inspiring, as the captain has not only marshaled his troops with great precision, but also lead the way with excellent performances with the bat. The debut of little known Joe Burns is expected to throw up a few surprises tomorrow, while Ryan Harris’ comeback to the team shall strongly boost the young bowling attack. Shane Watson and Brad Haddin must step up with good performances with the bat, especially with enthusiastic youngsters like Mitchell Marsh knocking at the doors of the Test team for a permanent spot.
The odds are stacked strongly in favour of Australia for this Boxing Day Test – but, with enough determination, this young Indian side too can spring a surprise or two! Remember how a young Indian team led by Anil Kumble had stepped up to the occasion in Perth in 2007 to script a historic win Down Under? Let’s hope we can see something similar this time!