Apart from earnest preparations and war of words undertaken by respective teams, much forecasting and fortune telling have done the rounds. A few doing the rounds are, " Indians are no match for the all-conquering Aussies," "Waugh's men are too professional," at least these did the early rounds. However, the air is a little suspect with the Aussies portraying themselves in poor light (by their standards) in their tour openers.
So now we have talks like, "If India 'A' and Mumbai can then we definitely can," "Look we told you they are susceptible to spin and the sub-continent is going to be a different ball game and so on." However, the Aussie image is so over bearing that a few quarters have come out with thoughts bearing a Sherlock Holmes streak, "Is there a psychological ploy to the under-performance of the Aussies?"
Well, whatever there is to it and all the talks that are doing the beats, one knows for a fact that the ensuing India-Australia series is of paramount importance to both sides. How do the two teams measure up, who will play a telling role, what will be the tilting factor, and many such questions, normally, beg to be addressed.
A first-hand look at both the teams has the weighing scale pretty evenly balanced. A Tendulkar for a Steve, a Ganguly for a Slater, may not be a Kumble for a Warne but definitely a very potent spin-trio, a Srinath who is not far away from a McGrath, not to forget the Dravids and the Pontings, man-to-man both teams certainly do have substance.
There is no dearth of match-winners either. Both teams have at least a couple. The notion of a single player playing a telling role gets, more or less, nullified given the fact that there are quite a few match-winners around that they are all going to take turns.
So one would imagine that it would come down to conditions and there is no arguing that India do have the advantage. Home turf, home crowd, weather and, if one may add, home food, all are in favour of India. However, it would be foolhardy to assume that these are sufficient to see India through. No, not with this lot of Kangaroos!
They are too professional a side not to have come prepared for the 'home factor'. They might take a beating or two, but one can rest assured they won't be beaten back.
So the net evaluation... There is no easy way out. A 'tug-of-war' is definitely on the cards with both teams pressing hard against each other.
Yes, the Australians have come here with an awesome 15-Test record and a soaring confidence, so what is all this talk about a tug-of-war? Well, spare a careful thought and you will realise that this Indian team under John Wright are sounding right. Mr Wright, one gathers, has done a lot of work in the right direction with a single-minded agenda of a no-nonsense-approach. And given the oriental flair we can be an explosive proposition if moulded to desired effect.
So what are the stakes like, who are the odds on favourite, who will emerge victorious?
Well, although it is going to be a tight squeeze, I see a tilting factor in Waugh's unflinching, unwavering, insatiable hunger for the all-important series victory that is oozing out of every pore in his body.
Yes, John Wright is supposed to be working on the Indians' attitude front but the Indians are just beginning to learn the trade, whereas the Aussies are hard-core and thoroughbred at it. It is an art they have perfected and are now selling to the world.
So in the final analysis... Waugh and his men just might have the world taking a bow.