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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Aussies must do something 'VVS' to beat India

The four Test series between India and Australia starting on Thursday in Bangalore has all the ingredients to be a real humdinger.

Australia's 2-1 win at home to India last year will be remembered for the verbal slanging matches, particularly between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh, but despite the squabbling and sideshows, it was a fiercely contested series with excellent Test cricket being played.

For Australia Matthew Hayden (82), Symonds (62.33), Brad Hogg (49.33), Michael Hussey (48.66) and Michael Clarke (45.15) were the standout performers with bat, while Brett Lee was the bowling destroyer-in-chief picking up 24 wickets at an average of just over 22 runs apiece.

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Virender Sehwag (71.50), Sachin Tedulkar (70.42) and VVS Laxman (45.75) were India's main source of runs and captain Anil Kumble (20) took the lion's share of Australian wickets.

Symonds and Hogg will not be back to renew their rivalry with the Indians on the sub-continent this time around but in Shane Watson, the Aussies have a more than able replacement for the all-rounder berth.

But with no Hogg, Stuart MacGill or Shane Warne, Australia's spinning department looks decidedly thin.

Captain Ricky Ponting has intimated that 25-year-old off-spinner Jason Krejza or leg-spinner Cameron White may make their Test debut on Thursday in what looks like a huge gamble.

Krejza, who plays for Tasmania, has only played 24 first-class matches and has a rather dismal bowling average of over 50 runs between his 43 wickets.

White would probably be a better option with his one-day international experience and superior batting prowess.

Another nagging factor for the Aussies is that Ponting, who despite being one of the most prolific Test batsmen over the past 10 years, has a rather bleak batting average of just 12 against the Indians on the sub-continent, a statistic I'm sure he'd like to improve on this series.

This series could also be the last hurrah for five of India's most iconic players.

Age has eventually crept up on India's Fantastic Five, Rahul Dravid, 35, Sourav Ganguly ,36, Tendulkar, 35, Kumble, 38, and Laxman, 34, and this series will probably be their last crack at the Aussies on home soil.

With a total of 610 Tests between them, their imminent retirement will leave a huge void in Indian cricket and a series win against the Aussies will leave a befitting legacy for the five.

Ask any Indian cricket supporter what the initials VVS in front of Laxman stands for, and they will invariably tell you: "Very, Very, Special", (actually it's Vangipurappu Venkata Sai) and against Australia the unassuming middle-order has been just that, with an outstanding average of over 50 against the world number one Test-playing nation.

Few cricket followers will forget his majestic 281 against Steve Waugh's formidable team in Kolkota, 2001, when he turned a Test, that the Aussies had by the scruff of the neck, right on its head.

After being 274 runs behind the Australians in the first innings, Laxman's 376 run fifth-wicket partnership with Dravid set up a 171 victory, squaring the series 1-1, which the Indian then went on win 2-1 in Chennai.

In the absence of a quality spinner, the deadly accuracy of Glenn McGrath and the swashbuckling Adam Gilchrist, Ponting's team will have to come up with something "Very, Very, Special" to beat the Indians in their own backyard.

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