New Delhi : An Anil Kumble-led India left for a tough cricket tour of Australia in confident mood, despite history being against them.
India have never clinched a Test series in Australia since their maiden visit there in 1947-48. They have won just four of their 32 Tests Down Under, a record that can turn even a die-hard fan into a pessimist.
Top-ranked Australia are currently on a roll as they have not lost a Test since August 2005, which includes a 14-match winning streak.
But Kumble believed his side could defy history this time as he had the batsmen to deliver in all conditions, especially after leading his side to a rare Test series win on his debut as captain against Pakistan.
His confidence also stemmed from India's impressive recent away record - Test series victories in the West Indies in 2006 after 35 years and then in England in 2007 after 21 years under Rahul Dravid.
Kumble, 37, became captain in the twilight of his career but soon proved his credentials as he recently led his side to a 1-0 win in the three-Test series against Pakistan, India's first success against their rivals at home since 1980.
"That (winning a Test series in Australia) is the aim. I believe we have the potential to do the job. Last time, we came close to winning the series, and we are confident we can do it this time," he said before the team's departure.
India drew a four-Test series 1-1 on their last tour of Australia in 2003-04 under Sourav Ganguly.
Kumble pinned hopes on a famed middle-order quartet - comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Venkatsai Laxman - to test Australia in home conditions.
It will be the last chance for the foursome and their captain to overcome the odds, for they may not be around when India next tour Australia in 2011. Ganguly is 35, followed by Tendulkar and Dravid, both 34, and Laxman, 33.
"Our strength is our middle order, which has 30,000 runs among them. We have to ensure we don't worry about the opposition, and get the job done," said the Indian captain.
Ganguly, top-scorer against Pakistan with 534 runs in three matches, will make his 100th Test appearance when India open a four-match series in Melbourne on December 26.
Batting will be India's main strength against a sharp Australian pace attack, with the renowned quartet expected to play key roles in the absence of a settled pair of openers.
India have one in-form opener in Wasim Jaffer and the search for his partner continues. Dinesh Karthik opened against Pakistan, but could manage just one half-century in six innings.
India gambled with hard-hitting opener Virender Sehwag who was recalled more because of his past performances in Australia, where he has averaged 54.70 in five Tests, than on current form.
Sehwag played his last Test in South Africa in January before being axed for Test series against Bangladesh, England and Pakistan.
India will rely on their spin twins - leg-spinner Kumble and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh - to test a formidable Australian batting line-up as they do not have the pace attack to match their rivals.
Kumble admitted that the absence of Sreesanth and Munaf Patel will be felt, but injuries are a part and parcel of the game. ''This also gives a chance to the youngsters like Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh to prove a point and both are extremely promising bowlers who would give good support to the experienced Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan,'' the Indian captain added.
They have named five fast bowlers in a 16-man squad, with Zaheer Khan being the most experienced with 52 Tests. Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh have a combined tally of 35 matches.
India will then play a triangular one-day series in Australia, which will also feature World Cup runners-up Sri Lanka.
Squad: Anil Kumble (capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (vice-capt, wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthik and Pankaj Singh.
Support Staff: Coach: Gary Kirsten, Asst Coach: Lalchand Rajput, Manager: Chetan Chauhan, Bowling Coach: Veekatesh Prasad, Fielding Coach: Robin Singh, Physio: John Gloster and Physical Trainer: Gregory King.