Indian pride, Sachin quest add spice to final testBy: NICK MULVENNEY
MELBOURNE – India have five days at the Adelaide Oval to show some fighting spirit, restore a modicum of pride and avoid a whitewash in the fourth and final test against Australia this week.
The tourists arrived Down Under ranked second in the world test rankings with confidence high that their record of having never won a series on Australian soil might finally be banished.
Three humbling routs later and, starting tomorrow, a squad containing some of the finest batsmen the game has seen will be reduced to scrapping for a face-saving victory against the fourth-ranked Australians.
They will have to do it without captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was banned for the test because of his team’s slow over rate in the third test in Perth, which the hosts won by an innings and 37 runs in two and a half days.
“Whatever backlash is happening in India, we have to accept it,” opener Gautam Gambhir said this week.
“There was a lot of expectations from us that we should have done well with the kind of batting we have. We have let the entire nation down.”
Sachin Tendulkar’s continuing quest for his century of international centuries at least offers Indian fans the prospect of something to celebrate in the series.
The Adelaide Oval, one of test cricket’s most picturesque venues, would be a suitable setting for the milestone and is also likely to offer a suitably batting-friendly track.
“I’ll be looking at a traditional Adelaide Oval pitch,’”head groundsman Damian Hough said this week.
“A little bit in it on day one for the quicks, then settling down on days two and three, and then offering a bit for the spinners on days four and five.”
Australia are almost certain to drop one of the quartet of quicks who bowled them to victory in Perth to allow the recall of spinner Nathan Lyon.
Mitchell Starc, by his own admission, is most likely to carry the drinks leaving Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris to once again get stuck in to the Indian batsmen.
Lyon is looking forward to bowling against Tendulkar at a venue where a year ago he was cutting the grass as a member of the ground staff as Australia crashed to innings defeat in the Ashes series against England.
“India’s a great side to play against. Even though we’re up three-nil, we’re expecting India to come out and hit us hard,” he told reporters in Adelaide this week.
“They have just been a great challenge for myself, being a young spinner and bowling against the best batters against spin.
“Their hands are unbelievable and they’re really confident against spin.”
Lyon is possibly alone in his appreciation of the Indian batting in this series as the much vaunted line-up has failed to hit a single century between them.
Gambhir’s opening partner Virender Sehwag will captain the side in Dhoni’s absence, while Wriddhiman Saha is almost certain to play his second test match as replacement wicketkeeper.
“Pressure is there but it’s a positive,” Saha said. “There is no negative in it. There is only good positive pressure.”