Wednesday, January 4, 2012

India's tour to Land Down Under, Australia

The bitter-bitter rivalry between India and Australia will forever remain! At once, when they fight against each other, they also play with each other. Forgetting the controversies, leaving behind the brutal scars, they also share glasses of alcohol now! To vouch for these words, the Agneepath series for 2011-12 has begun. Team India’s Men in Blue will face Team Australia’s Baggy Greens in 4 Tests and 2 T20s. The series begun from 26th December, 2011. The teams will play their last T20 on 3rd February, 2012.

Down the memory lane:
When India met Australia in 2007-08, it was a big bummer for us. We lost the first test by 337 runs. And to add salt to the wounds, we lost the second match by 122 runs and with that, we lost the series too. However, we did win the 3rdtest and were able to draw the 4th match all thanks to the great efforts put by our captain Anil Kumble and his team of Men in Blue.

Here is a brief recap of the tour: India tour of Australia, 2007-08:
Blame it on any reason, but team India was quite under-prepared for the tour. With practice match being washed out; our players did not get enough time to acclimatize to the Australian conditions.
1st Test: Very famously known as the Boxing Day Test! This Test begins on 26th December every year. It is Well, losing toss, team India had to bowl first. The Boxing Day match of 2007 started on the very high note with the audience 68,778. Anil Kumble picked up his 35th Test five-for; Zaheer Khan picked up 4 wickets restricting Aussies to 343. In return, team India made only 196 runs. Thanks to superb bowling by Lee and Clark who picked up 4 wickets each. For innings 2, Australia made 351-7 dec giving India the target of 499 runs. India succumbed in just 161 runs losing by 337 runs. Hayden being the only century-scorer from both sides got his MOM.

2nd Test: This Test will be remembered for the “Monkey Gate” controversy between A Symonds and Harbhajan Singh. Bhajji almost faced a ban being found guilty. If that wasn’t enough, India had to go ahead without Zaheer Khan who was out due to heel injury (like injuries is our companions forever!). Almost like revenge, Symonds scored 162 and remained NOT OUT in the first innings for Aussies and won the MOM too. India put a great show in the first innings gaining small lead too. But Australians were too good in the second innings; both batting and bowling-wise. Kumble managed to get 4 wickets in the second innings but that wasn’t enough and Australia won the second test by 122 runs.

3rd Test: India won by 72 runs. No century by either side; no five-for’s from either side; and yet, a very important match. India’s win put a break on Ponting and his team’s 17th consecutive Test victory. To add cherry on the cake: Anil Kumble, the captain, became only the third bowler to take 600 Test wickets. Series: 2-1. Irfan Pathan became the MOM for his over-all performance in this Test.

4th Test: A slow and steady match. A total of 1358 runs were added by both teams in the first innings that lasted for 4 days. 5 centuries scored; by Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Hayden, Ponting and Clarke. RP Singh left just after 4 overs due to hamstring injury. The match resulted in a draw and Sachin got MOM for his superb knock of 153. Australia won the series by 2-1. Bret Lee became MOS as he bagged 24 wickets in the series.
Many of us thought that the 2007-08 series would be the last tour for the big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. But as it would been written, the trio is back to the Land Down Under for the “Agneepath” series. As I write this blog, India is playing the first against the home team. Unlike the jinx, India has played very good in the first test itself (might win it too!).

The Australian team too, has changed since the last test. Captain Ponting is now middle-order batsman and trying to revive his form in the Test. Clarke was a middle-order batsman then; and now the captain. Hussey continues to play as the middle-order batsman. Rest 8 members are new and the team is very young, both in terms of age and experience.
Team India on the other hand has same 6 players: Sachin, Dravid, Dhoni, VVS Laxman, Sehwag and I Sharma. The 4 new entrants are: Virat Kohli, Umesh Yadav, R Ashwin and Gauti.

Together these teams have put up a great show and entertaining first Test. When on one hand, there is threat that Test Cricket may die soon; this first Test is completely negating those allegations. Players have put up a great show and have attracted lot of young crowd too. On day 3, 247 runs were scored and 15 wickets were taken by both ends. If this doesn’t sound exciting, what else does?

Some more reasons to get up at 5 AM and slump in front of the TV: Cowan’s maiden 50, Warner’s huge knocks, Ponting trying to come-back in form, Zak’s come-back series, Kilfenhaus’ five-for, Sachin’s 100th100, U Yadav is the surprise element for India, repetition of a Very Very Special knock by Laxman and the most experienced Rahul Dravid’s elegant style!

This might be the last tour for Indian seniors. The youngsters have to learn a lot from them before the baton is passed on. Virat Kohli has to take the lessons from Laxman. He is doing well and promises to carry on the responsibility very well. Rohit almost duplicates Dravid in style and he will not deny the fact that, he is being compared with the legend of Indian Cricket. Ajinkya  Rahane is yet to discover his form. But he is leaving no stone unturned. A hard-working player, he will soon be ready to open the innings with the likes of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. The bowlers are new and totally surprising. Umesh Yadav has out-lived everyone’s expectations. R Ashwin is making sure that we do not miss Bhajji so much. Zaheer Khan too has made the difference that he promised before catching the flight.

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