It is probably a bit too late to post a preview of a test that starts in less than 24 hours, but some of my thoughts will be relevant through the series, so I decided to post this anyway.
India have had a decent build up and practice before the first test match, but I suspect that the Canberra track will not be similar to the tracks that India will face in the test series. So most of the benefit will be in the minds of the players and if they have gained some confidence, that will help. One of the people who will have benefitted is Virat Kohli who seems to have sealed his spot as number 6 for the first 2 tests at least. The number 6 position is vital to India's prospects and it is good that Virat has some runs under his belt before the first test. Another plus from the warmups is the form of Ashwin. It is his first tour down under and as I mentioned in my previous post, there is a big difference in bowling in Australia compared to India, so that is another positive for us that Ashwin has bowled well and has the confidence of a few wickets under his belt.
It would have been nice to have some runs for Gambhir and Sehwag, but Gambhir did score some runs in the second innings at Canberra. Sehwag has done well in Australia before, but he needs to once again realize his importance in setting up Indian totals and wins and adapt his game accordingly. The current crop of Aussie pacers can all swing the ball at pace, so Sehwag will need to leave a lot of deliveries initially in every inning and make the bowlers bowl close to the stumps, so that he can play on the leg side or down the ground till he gets set and then unfurl his attacking shots.
A lot of people think that this series is about the battle between the Aussie pacers and India's experienced batting lineup, but to my mind, if India are to win, the pacers, particularly Zaheer, are equally important. I really hope that Zak can play the entire series without getting injured. Its been a long time since we saw Zaheer bowl in a test match, so I am looking forward to seeing him bowl at the MCG. I read somewhere today that they are using drop-in pitches these days for MCG tests. The difference between such pitches and the ones earlier at the MCG, is that the drop-in pitch does not change character too much as the match goes on. So earlier, the fourth and fifth day pitch would offer assistance to the spinners, Shane Warne in particular, I dont expect to see such wear and tear this time. So other than the first 2 hours or so offering generous help to the pacers, particularly swing bowlers, I dont expect to see much help for the bowlers in this pitch.
So the plan for India should be fairly simple. Win the toss, bat first and look to post a big total after seeing out the first session. If they bowl first, they should look to take 3-4 wickets before lunch time and then try to exert pressure on the remaining batsmen by bowling tight lines and not offering easy runs. Dhoni should definitely look to extract 10+ overs from his non-regular bowlers each day. Given that Zak and Ishant are not at their peak fitness, they should be managed carefully and Dhoni should exercise caution in the first test regarding using them. My one concern is regarding the form and effectiveness of Dhoni at test match level. He needs to contribute regularly and needs to place a premium on his wicket. Ashwin is a good number 8 and has the confidence of a test century with him, so that is not an area of concern. I hope the team management do not spring a surprise and pick Ojha instead of Ashwin at the MCG.
Lets get ready for an exciting test series and hope that India perform to their potential this time. I hope this series is all about what happens on the field and that there are no unnecessary controversies like last time. I will post again after the first test, so stay tuned.