Brisbane is never an easy ground for the Indians as they lost 4 out of 5 tests they played in this stadium; the only draw being the first test of the famous 2003-04 tour where Sourav Ganguly crashed the Australian party with a spectacular 144. Things have changed pretty much since then. After the nail-biting opening test in Adelaide, it seems India can move on with their head held high as they have embraced a positive approach which was quite missing in the last few overseas Tests. With Virat Kohli leading from the front; and Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara showing grit in their batting, a victory in Brisbane may not be just a cake-walk for the Aussies.
Australia will begin the second test as the vulnerable side not only because of the flow-on effect of the heroic effort of the Indians, but also they will miss their captain Michael Clarke throughout the series due to his hamstring injury. The newly appointed captain Steven Smith is not so experienced. On the other hand, his deputy Brad Haddin is going through a severe draught of runs. The positions of Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Peter Siddle are also under scrutiny. Shaun Marsh has been added to the team as Clarke’s replacement, while left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc was also taken in to the expanded 13-man squad to provide additional pace options heading into the second Test. Australian head coach cum selector Darren Lehmann is not sure what is going to be their first eleven; as he said that Josh Hazlewood might have his debut in Brisbane.
Similarly, the Indians would like to settle some of their major issues before Gabba Test. The short ball did not cause trouble in the Adelaide track. The effect of Mitchell Johnson was easily nullified by the nature of the pitch. But, the concrete like deck in Gabba is quite alien by comparison and the Indian top-order can expect the new cherry humming past their noses in Brisbane. Their skill, determination, patience will be tested at a whole new level in Gabba, and India should gain enough confidence from the first test to enter in that battlefield.
India must make some positive changes in their squad. Rohit Sharma should be dropped immediately after his horrible batting performance in both the innings. His meek dismissal in both innings highlighted upon his lack of responsibility in batting. Karn Sharma was a brave choice for the first test, and he should be given another chance; but he needs an experienced partner like R. Ashwin on the field. Ashwin can be included in the squad in place of Rohit Sharma. Shami can be dropped as his performance is getting weaker every test; rather Dhawal Kulkarni deserves a chance. Ishant Sharma should be used as the opening bowler as he might generate pace from Brisbane track. Shikhar Dhawan is not doing well also, but he can be kept for another test before sending Ajinkya Rahane to the opening spot.
There were some problems with captaincy too. Kohli captained for the first time; and it is expected that he will mature soon; but he made some wrong judgements in this test. In the first innings of Australia, he should have brought Ishant back into attack and set attacking fielding once Warner got out. Instead, he continued the spells of Karn and Vijay which gave Mitchell Marsh enough time to settle down. Such strategic mistakes are expected not to occur again as soon as MS Dhoni comes back into squad in place of Wriddhiman Saha who did a reckless batting exhibition when all he had to do was to show patience. Dhoni and Ashwin also happen to be a much better batting pair than Rohit and Saha. Ashwin-Karn pair can be useful in taking wickets because after all, India has to pick 20 wickets.
The tail-enders should also try to contribute something in the batting which they could not do in the second innings. Moreover, there were some issues with team’s think tank too. It is not obvious why all the bowlers kept on bowling round the wicket. Firstly, it lessened the chance of LBW, and secondly, it gave Nathan Lyon footmarks to bowl.
With the regular captain back to the Indian squad, India must not shed the positive approach that they showed in the Adelaide test. It is important that they put much pressure on the home side and make them commit some mistake. Having their confidence regained; Indian now need to do some proper team selection and avoid doing blunders to give the Aussies an excellent fight.
You may also like : McGrath’s prediction of India-Australia series