Confident India keen to break Bangalore jinx

Australia look to level series at one of their favourite hunting grounds

Confident India keen to break Bangalore jinx

Watched by former India skipper Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh goes through his paces in Bangalore on Friday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

History suggests that the chances of a nail-biter are a remote possibility at this ground. Barring a 16-run heart-breaking loss to Imran Khan’s Pakistan in 1987, the rest of the matches here – either before or after – have been lop-sided affairs. Worse, the hosts have not registered a win since beating New Zealand in 1995, having gone winless in the last seven Tests.

While the home side has little inspiration to draw from the Bangalore turf, Australia have a lot to look forward to. The Antipodeans have an unbeaten record in their four Tests here, two of them resulting in victories. The last time they vanquished the hosts in 2004, the visitors went on to win the series.

Ricky Ponting’s men couldn’t repeat the show in 2008 but had the better of the exchanges in the drawn tie on a pitch not too dissimilar to the one on offer now. Covered under an artificial turf for over 15 days during the KPL and with the rains not giving adequate time for preparation, there’s the likelihood of the pitch playing low and slow, at least for the first couple of days.

“We’ll try our best (to improve the record here). That’s we are supposed to do, aren’t we?” remarked Dhoni when reminded of India’s poor record in Bangalore, with casual confidence. However, the non-availability of an injured Ishant Sharma, who played a stellar role both with ball and bat in Mohali, and the potential absence of VVS Laxman, who skipped practice both on Thursday and Friday, will force him to put up new combination on the park on Saturday.

M Vijay’s inclusion, with Gautam Gambhir out, is a certainty while Cheteshwar Pujara may get a look in if Laxman fails to recover in time. S Sreesanth will share the new ball with Zaheer Khan while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha will retain his place along with offie Harbhajan Singh.     
 
Though India came out winners in an evenly-contested encounter in Mohali, the world number one side must have pondered over how easily it surrendered the advantage at various stages of the game. While the bowlers let go of the control when the Aussies batted first, the batsmen threw away their wickets from a commanding position to allow their rivals to come back.

On the positive side, it was comforting to see Rahul Dravid’s fluency while Sachin Tendulkar’s imperious form has always been a reason for confidence. Suresh Raina continued building on his promise, albeit looking a bit shaky. There’s no need to underline the value of the man of the match in the opening Test, Zaheer, but it remains to be seen how well Sreesanth, who played his last Test in Bangladesh in February this year, complements the left-armer. Harbhajan and Ojha were good in patches, but the Indians can do with some more effectiveness from the spinners. 

The Australians were no better either. They had the match by the scruff of the neck, but remarkably allowed India to get out of a deep hole, exposing the limitations in their bowling armoury. The non-availability of Doug Bollinger, who walked off the field with an abdomen injury, towards the end of the final day had further weakened their attack. The left-arm paceman has been ruled out for the match and right-arm pacer Peter George is likely to take his place.

Caught in a do-or-die situation, the visiting side will have to put its best foot forward to tame the hosts. A loss here will push them down to fifth in the ICC rankings, a low they have never touched before.   

Teams (from):  India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina, VVS Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Abhinav Mukund, Jaidev Unadkat.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Tim Paine, Marcus North, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter George, Doug Bollinger, Mitchell Starc, Phillip Hughes, Steven Smith.      
Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Ian Gould (England). Third umpire: Amish Saheba. Match referee: Chris Broad (England).
Hours of play: 9.30 am to 11.30 am; 12.10 pm to 2.10 pm; 2.30 pm to end of play.

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