India favourite against Australia: VVS Laxman

Despite Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s dismal captaincy over last few months, former cricketers Kapil Dev and VVS Laxman believe that India stand an “excellent” chance to win against a “vulnerable” Australian side in the forthcoming ODI and T20 series Down Under.


Speaking about Team India’s prospects in the five-match ODI series and three T20 rubbers here on Wednesday, the two legends of the game said the retirement of World Cup-winning skipper Michael Clarke and speedster Mitchell Johnson and injury to pacer Mitchell Starc has reduced the Aussies to a “depleted” unit. Both were also of the view that a short Australian tour would be an “ideal opportunity” to the Indian team to begin their World T20 preparation in right earnest, even though the pitches in India would exactly be opposite to that of Australia

“Australia are definitely beatable and the reason for that is the retirement of Clarke and Johnson. Add to the list an injured Starc and current skipper Steve Smith, who is suffering a knee injury. Shane Watson would be under a lot of pressure to perform as he is only concentrating on limited-overs format. His form has been patchy of late. It’s a very vulnerable Australian side and it’s the best time for Indians to win against them. The quality and balance of the Indian ODI & T20 teams are very good. They are a fearless bunch of cricketers with full of confidence,” Laxman said during a discussion on India-Australia series organised in the capital.

The stylist Hyderabadi believes that Aussie bowling unit, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, is not as experienced as Johnson and Starc. “Australia would be searching for a lot of answers because they are a depleted unit. The only worrisome part for Indians is David Warner. He is probably the most dangerous batsman in world cricket. It would be important for Indian bowlers to take him out early. Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar should know the formula, having played with him as part of IPL team. Getting Warner out would be crucial to India’s success. Apart from him and if Smith is ruled out, I don’t see any substance in their batting line-up,” added Laxman, who is only the second Indian after Sachin Tendulkar to score over 2000 Test runs against Australia.

The 1983 World Cup winning skipper, Kapil, feels that bowlers would hold the “key to success” in pace-friendly conditions in Australia and expressed his happiness over the selection of Ashish Nehra in the T20 squad to assist the other Indian pacers.

“If you look at some of the earlier wins in Australia, it was largely due to the contribution made by bowlers. To me, it’s important to take three wickets in first 15 overs even if you leak 90 runs. You can always make a comeback in the middle and death overs. But if you take no wickets in first 15 overs even if you have conceded just 45 runs, the opposition can always make a comeback. By restricting the Australians to 280-odd runs, you can achieve the target. In the T20s, Nehra has the ability to take early wickets with the new ball and he bowls well in the death overs. He is an experienced campaigner,” said Kapil.

Both Kapil and Laxman also lauded the national selectors for bringing Yuvraj Singh back into the Indian team to strengthen the middle order, keeping the WC T20 in mind. Laxman, however, felt that selectors made a wrong choice by leaving out Suresh Raina from India’s ODI squad.

“Yuvraj is an exciting cricketer. He is a genuine crowd-puller…just like you wanted to see John McEnroe or Diego Maradona. People came to watch them in action. He is a match winner. He can bat at any position like No 5 or No 6 as he has the experience. He should be given time by selectors,” Kapil said.

Laxman said: “We are one batsman short and it was harsh on Raina to drop him for Australia tour. He is an impact player and crucial to India’s WC T20 chances. A lot will depend on him. But, it’s also an opportunity for someone like Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Mann to give their best if they get a look in. The No. 6 and 7 are the two troublesome spots for Indian team. India have not been able to find a solution to these spots.”

Talking about the leadership qualities of Dhoni and Virat Kohli, both the cricketers felt the team will benefit from Dhoni’s “calmness” and Virat “aggression” not only in tough Australian conditions, but leading up to the World Cup.