Half-way into the Border-Gavaskar series, India and Australia are locked at one win each as the series moves to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
India’s pursuit of history reaches a venue, which has traditionally helped the spinners and the likes of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would yet again play a crucial role in India’s chances of taming the Aussies. Sitting at par 1-1 in the four-match series, India are just a win away from retaining the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which they famously lifted two years ago at the picturesque SCG. And despite the fresh injuries woes that has ruled Umesh Yadav out of the rest of the series, India would be confident of their chances, having outplayed the Australians with a convincing win in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne last week.
Despite spin considered a traditional factor in any Sydney Test, India do not have a favourable record in the past at the iconic venue-having won just a solitary Test match way back in 1978-when they won the fourth Test of the series to level it up 2-2 before losing the final match. BS Chandrasekhar, Bishan Singh Bedi and Prasanna combined to take 16 out of the 20 wickets in that match as India defeated Australia by an innings and two runs.
Border-Gavaskar series: India at Sydney
Sachin Tendulkar’s career-defining 241* springs to mind as we talk about India playing at Sydney. The little-masters’ magnificent unbeaten knock in January 2004, is one of the 14 centuries which have been hit at the venue by the Indian batsmen. His knock was laced with 33 boundaries and is regarded as one of the most memorable knocks played by the batting legend in his glorious career.
The present India head coach, Ravi Shastri is one of the highest run-getters for India in Tests on Australian soil. Shastri was the first Indian to hit a double ton in Australia in the Border-Gavaskar series. He slammed a brilliant 206-run-knock laced with 17 fours and 2 sixes. Shastri was dismissed by Shane Warne in the game, becoming his first Test victim.
Apart from those two knocks, Cheteshwar Pujara’s brilliant 193 summed up India’s tour of Australia in 2018, as the Saurashtra batsman single-handedly defied the Australian bowlers to lead India to its first-ever series win down under.
Although Sydney has not been India’s happy hunting ground in Australia, their 622 for 7 (declared) in 2018 is their second-highest test total in Sydney. The Asian giants hold the record for the highest team total in Sydney as they had amassed 705 for 7 (declared) in 2004. Two years back, India also broke England’s record for the most number of 600-plus totals as they went past the 600-run mark for the third time at the iconic venue in Australia.
The pitch has helped spinner in the past and five times an Indian bowler has registered a five-wicket haul in Tests in Sydney with Anil Kumble leading the pack with an 8-wicket-haul in 2004 followed by 4 in the second. The others to take five in an innings are Kapil Dev, Shivlal Yadav, Kharsan Ghavri and Mohammed Shami.
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 3, 2021
Border-Gavaskar series: Debut for Natarajan?
With Umesh Yadav ruled out of the Border-Gavaskar series, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane faces yet another steep test in Sydney. He faces a dilemma of handing out a debut to T Natarajan or giving a go-ahead to Navdeep Saini. Throughout the Australian summer, Natarajan has played a part of a super-sub. He went to Australia as a net bowler but was included in the T20I squad after Varun Chakravarthy was ruled out. He ended the series as the leading wicket-taker with 6 wickets to his name. He then was drafted into the ODI squad after Navdeep Saini complained of back spasms.
Now, with Umesh ruled out-he has been drafted in the Test squad and stands a good chance to make the cut in Sydney. However, while picking the XI for the third Test, Rahane will need to keep sentiment at arm’s length. After all, a win in Sydney would mean India retain the all-important prize, that is the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The Tamil Nadu bowler is pretty accurate, which has contributed to his white-ball success. If he can take that to red-ball cricket, he could be a good option to do the holding job at one end. Mohammed Siraj was impressive on his debut in Melbourne a week ago. If Natrajan was to get the nod, India would hope to better their track record at the iconic cricket venue and clinch the series for the second time in three years!
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