Melbourne, Dec 24: Count Down has begun for the most awaited series of the year. Formidable India play against a depleted Aussie side which is battling injuries. With the first of the four match Test series starting on Monday, Dec 26 let us have a look at both the teams.
Dhoni's recent statement has put a smile on Indians as both the seamers are fit and raring to go against the Aussies as they have practised at the nets on Friday and Saturday.
India's most awaited tour, hardest of all series is just round the corner as we are going to witness the action at MCG in less than 48 hours. India eye first series against Australia on their soil taking advantage of the current phenomenon. Since the current Australian squad isn't as good as the previous one, India is jsut trying to fancy their chances.
Melboune pitch will offer a lot of bounce, and would assist bowlers if they have a lot of variety while bowling. India has struggled to score runs on bouncy tracks will be on the minds of both the visitors and the hosts as Aussies try to expose the weakness by extracting more bounce on such tracks.
While Indians have to be very careful against the Aussie attack comprising of James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon and Ben Hilfenhaus.While India has had a great season after the England tour, it remains to be seen how they fare against Australia on bouncy tracks.
Otherwise, India's famous batting line-up has been amongst runs except for the opener Gautam Gambhir who is struggling to convert good starts to big scores. Even during the practice match, he was found struggling to score runs. Apart from the Delhi opener, others have had a good season so far ahead of the Australian tour.
India's Big 3 has been at their best scoring big throughout the year. Especially Dravid, who has been the highest run-scorer in 2011 with 1067 Test runs including 5 centuries to his credit.
VVS Laxman too has shown everyone that he can be very dangerous as he has an amazing record of 2279 runs against Australia since 1998, his magnificent knock of 281 gives nightmares to Aussies even to this day.
Well, the man of few words, one short of his 100th ton, Sachin Tendulkar might register this rare feat at Melbourne or in the four match series as Australia happens to be his favourite place to play cricket.
Virender Sehwag, with his recent knock of 219 in ODIs has given quite a few goosebumps for Aussies as he has a great record at Melbourne as well. Eight years ago, he had scored 195 against Australia at MCG.
There is a clash between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma for the No 6 spot. With a brilliant effort in the last 12 months, and a century knock in the practice match ensures that Virat Kohli is the first choice though Rohit Sharma, awaiting his Test debut, also has records to back him and his current form has been awesome.
Man of the series in the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies, he has impressed the selectors big time insisting them to include him in the playing XI with his batting prowess.
Bowling seems to be the weakest link, as most of them are inexperienced, except Ishant and Zaheer. Hopefully, both the pacers are fit and we expect some magical spells from these two strike bowlers to help visitors put up a good show against the hosts.
Though Ashwin has impressed everyone with a four wicket haul in the practice match against Chairman's XI, conditions at MCG will be totally different and he has to work hard too.
With India playing 3 seamers, in all possibility, Umesh Yadav or Abhimanyu Mithun will get a chance with Ishant and Zaheer to form the pace attack. Likely, one spinner will be included in the playing eleven as India play 3 seamers, 7 batsmen, in all possibilities it will be R Ashwin. While pacer Vinay Kumar too is a awaiting his Test debut. Now, it all depends on Dhoni to select the best playing XI for the hardest tour of the year.
Australia on the other hand, has got a reason to smile as their top order seems to be in shape as Cowan has been included in the squad after his fantastic knock against India in the practice match while Shaun Marsh and David Warner are certainly a part of the Australian playing XI.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have got another chance to prove their worth as they have been retained due to their past experience while Clarke hopes that the veterans will be amongst runs soon.
Inconsistency has cost the Aussies dear over the last few weeks as they have witnessed all time lows in the last two series against South Africa and New Zealand.
Aussies have a decent bowling attack that has the ability to put pressure on the Indian batting line-up. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon and Ben Hilfenhaus all have created an identity of their own with impressive performances this year.
James Pattinson, being the most interesting bowler as he has got consecutive 5 wicket hauls this season. Though most of them are back after nursing an injury, can pose to be dangerous on Australian pitches.
With a decent team and a home advantage, a record of 27 wins off 35 at Melbourne (Boxing Day Tests) Aussies pose a tough challenge for India. Though India is termed favourites, it depends on how the visitors play against Aussie bowlers which happens to be the key for gaining an upper hand against the hosts.
With the match scheduled to start on Monday, the Boxing day Test is surely going to witness a huge crowd as the two teams gear up for the battle and fight for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.