The Feroz Shah Kotla stadium has been a welcome venue for the Indians. India has won its last 7 Tests at this ground and the captain Kumble has picked up 55 wickets at this venue in 6 Tests at an outstanding average of 15.71.
Kumble has to be the spotlight of this preview, because his performance of late has not been anything to write home about. Although Kumble is fit and raring to go at his favourite ground, he was not the captain in the previous Test where India registered the famous record victory. It has been reported that Kumble is quite confident going into the 3rd Test, but even his most ardent supporters admit he is feeling the heat, more so because of Mishra’s revelation in the 2nd Test.
Speaking of Mishra, he may well have to lose out due to Kumble’s inclusion. The Mohali Test has presented the Indian team management with almost a delicious dilemma. As of now, there can be no question of dropping Kumble because he is the captain. Yet, Mishra’s performance at Mohali warrants a place. Harbhajan is stuck in the middle and at the moment it is unclear whether the toe injury he sustained in the Mohali Test has been cured. The slight problem India may have is losing some of the psychological advantage that is present when Harbhajan is playing against Australia, if Harbhajan has to sit out.
The curators have attempted their best to produce a spin friendly wicket for Kumble. Keeping this in mind Kumble may want to gamble and play the third spinner instead of either Laxman or Dravid. However historically speaking the Indian team management has never liked to compromise on batting. An interesting statistic about the Kotla is that spinners on this ground have taken nearly two-thirds of all the wickets that have fallen, so this may be something Kumble perhaps would want to consider.
The Kotla is also a friendly ground for the aggressive Indian openers Gambhir and Sehwag, both of whom hail from Delhi and are very comfortable with the local conditions. They are expected to set some fireworks at this ground.
The Indians have hit Australia where it hurts and it appears Australia will have to play out of their skins to win this one. One change is likely to be made in the Australian line up, with Stuart Clark replacing Peter Siddle. One might cynically consider if that is likely to make any difference keeping in mind that Siddle was not particularly bad in the Mohali Test. Australia is missing a quality spinner on these types of tracks and for the first time perhaps the fact that there is no Warne to bamboozle the opposition is showing in Australia’s performance.
Cameron White is a prospect but he needs more experience as this Indian attack has the potential to handle him pretty comfortably.
Ponting demanded his seniors to perform and with good reason. Hayden has expressed devising a new strategy to counter Zaheer Khan and Clarke has also pledged to bat with more responsibility. Australia have been pushed back and most pundits are already predicting an Indian win, but this is an excellent opportunity to see just how much juice is there in the Australians after their humiliation at Mohali. It is interesting how both the captains of the opposing teams are under pressure to perform. Speaking from Australia’s perspective, their strength is pace bowling and they will have to pick up early wickets. As for their batting, Hayden & Co will have to attack and show positive intent. Otherwise we will probably bear witness to yet another humiliation for Australia.