To defend World Cup title, India need to ace Australia tour

Mumbai,Jigar Mehta : India’s last tour to Australia was a horrible memory. They were thrashed 4-0 in the Test series, drew 1-1 in the T20I series and didn’t make it to the final of the Commonwealth Bank tri-series. To make matter worse, at the end of it — Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman decided to retire from international cricket.

To defend World Cup title, India need to ace Australia tour

File picture of Virat Kohli. PTI

As India embark on a difficult series (the first Test begins on 9 December), they can’t afford a similar situation. After the tour, they will go straight into the World Cup looking to defend their title and that again will not be easy.

India will spend nearly two-and-a-half months in Australian during the tour and this will give them a chance to acclimatise well going into the mega event.
After a disappointing Test series in England earlier this year, India managed to pick themselves up and win the ODI series in a comprehensive manner (3-1) but playing against Australia will be a different ball game altogether. But the results in England also show that India are a much better ODI side than a Test side.

Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming says that India will be hard-pressed against the No. 1 side.
“The ODI series for India in England was great. So they will be putting a lot of hope on that. They’ve still got to compete well in Australia. All the players will have to be in form and fight very hard. Australia are tough at home and they just have to fight and make the adjustments to the technique and compete. I think you’ll accept that they are not going to win every game but what we want is the team to compete and there is a chance for India in Australia,” said Fleming.

Fleming also asserted that Australia tour will decide India’s fate in the World Cup.
“It’s all part of getting conditioned to it. So if India turned up just few days before the World cup in Australia, it would be hard but they have got three months in Australia to condition themselves to playing in certain style and getting used to the conditions,” Fleming said at a Tourism New Zealand event.

“If they play well in the Test series, if they play well in the one-dayers, they are going to be in a very good position to challenge for the Cup. But I stress, they have got to play well for those three months to get used to the conditions and environment and that will be an advantage. If they do not, then a disadvantage,” he added.

There were burnout issues witnessed during India’s tour to England and a long Australian tour can cause similar problems going into the World Cup but Fleming feels that getting into the winning habit is the cure for ever thing.

“They have got to manage themselves well and the best way to manage yourself is to win. If you play well, you have energy and things go okay. You spend a lot of energy on other things when you are losing and if they have a tough tour like what they had in England, it is going to be hard to pick themselves up. Players will feel a little bit flat,” he said.
Former batting great VVS Laxman also feels that the Australian tour just before the World Cup will boost India’s chances at the World Cup.

“As far as the World Cup is concerned no one starts as favourites because at least 4-5 teams are playing top-class cricket right now. But the way Indian team is playing in ODI format, I have no doubt that they will be able to defend the title. The advantage that India will be having is that they will be spending more than two months in Australia prior to the World Cup,” Laxman said in an interview to PTI.

“They will have a good opportunity to get used to the conditions that they are going to confront in the World Cup,” he added.
Getting used to the conditions is one thing but good performance on the tour is extremely key. The momentum going into the World Cup will be crucial.

Last time around, India didn’t go into a high-profile series after the Australia tour. But this time, they go straight into a mega event and they can’t afford to go into it low on confidence.

The Indian selectors have left out five senior players – Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh who formed the core of the 2011 World Cup winning squad this time around.

This team is relatively young and touring teams find it extremely difficult to beat Australia in their own backyard. Recently the mighty South African team were beaten 4-1 in the ODI series by Australia at home. Their record at home is solid — they are unbeaten in their last six ODI series in which they have won five and drawn one, they also comprehensively won their last two Test series, whitewashing England and Sri Lanka.

For India to stand a chance of retaining the World Cup, they need to break the Australian resistance as confidence and momentum will be extremely crucial going into the World Cup. That, as we know, is easier said than done.