India seek breakthrough win

2011-12-23 11:13
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (File)

Sydney - India are desperate to bury their unwanted tag of being poor travellers as they bid to win their first series in Australia starting on Monday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The Indians, ranked second in Test cricket, two places above Australia, have failed to win a series Down Under in nine previous tours over 64 years but face a home team in the throes of a painful transition.

India will be playing their first away Test series since losing all four matches in England in July-August in a whitewash that cost MS Dhoni's men their number one ranking.

India have developed an unwelcome reputation as poor travellers and a win in the four-Test series against Michael Clarke's Australians represents a career-defining goal for many of the team's ageing stars.

Sachin Tendulkar, bidding for his 100th international century, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman are all unlikely to get the opportunity again in their cricket careers and are motivated to succeed.

The Boxing Day Test is one for the purists with the rarity of Test cricket's three greatest runscorers - Tendulkar (15 183), Dravid (13 094) and Australia's Ricky Ponting (12 656) - all featuring in the same match.

Dravid, turning 39 next month and padding up for his fourth series in Australia, has had one of his best years, scoring 1 067 runs and five centuries.

"I wouldn't have minded scoring five hundreds (fewer) or 1 000 runs less if we could win a series in Australia," Dravid said.

"The greatest memory for me now is not necessarily statistical. It's not the number of runs, it's those magical moments. The series wins in Tests stay with you.

"I think that's what you play for at this stage. I don't have anything in terms of my own numbers or statistics that I want to achieve in Australia, but I want to win a Test series (here) and help the team win in Australia.

"It is something that we have never done. So every time you tour here you want to get that goal. It's not going to be easy, it never is, but I think the team's goal is to try to win a series."

While India are top heavy with batting experience, it will come down to the ability of front-line bowlers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma to bowl out Australia for India to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy they have held since 2008.

Australian bowling legends Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have needled the Indians this week, saying India will struggle if Zaheer and Sharma are not fully fit for the gruelling series.

But the Australians are nowhere near as formidable as they once were and this month crashed to a humiliating defeat to lowly New Zealand in Hobart.

Australia have a new skipper, a new coach and a revamped selection panel following their traumatic 3-1 Ashes home series defeat to England last January and are very much a work in progress.

Skipper Michael Clarke, who has taken over from Ponting, has won just three of his eight Tests in charge and is entrusted along with incoming coach South African Mickey Arthur with rebuilding the Australian team.

Ponting, who turned 37 this month, and Mike Hussey, 36, are still there to help guide a new batch of rookie batsmen into the Test arena - David Warner, (two Tests), Ed Cowan (0), Shaun Marsh (three) and Dan Christian (0).

Australia named an extended 13-man squad for the Melbourne opener amid fitness doubts over Marsh (back), with opener Cowan poised for his Test debut after four centuries this season, including 109 for a Chairman's XI against India.

James Pattinson and Peter Siddle will lead the bowling attack with 21-year-old Pattinson taking 14 wickets in his first two Tests against the Kiwis this season, including two five-wicket innings hauls.


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