Cricket viewers have been so ODed over past 12 weeks with a glut of T20 & ODI matches that one wonders whether the cricketers themselves are really looking forward to the 7 match (yawn!) ODI (& more yawn!) series between India & Australia starting tomorrow. For them both tiredness & fitness will be real issues to be dealt with during the course of the series.
Fortunately most of the Indian cricketers do not really suffer from the problem of tiredness as they had little opportunity to sweat; after being knocked out of the Champions trophy in South Africa by a fighting Pakistani team. Even the T20 Champions League saw mostly Sehwag & Gambhir getting limited time to swing their bats around since none of the IPL teams succeeded enough to qualify for the semis. So , the problem of sustenance will be on the Aussies although ironically India starts with a news of injuries hitting Yuvraj Singh & Dhoni during the practice sessions.
However, the Aussies are riding high on excellent current forms of Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Bret Lee , Mitchell Johnson & Shaun Marsh who are expected to carry the momentum forward overcoming Indian conditions of heat,dust & spin magic on slow pitches.
Both the captains Dhoni & Ponting sounded 'jaded' initially, trying not to sound "indifferent" to 'one more' series but have now followed up with lots of sound bytes of bravado. Dhoni reassures that fitness is not an issue & should not be confused with accidental injuries in "intense" practice sessions & unlike in 3 or 5 match series , here they will have to play well in all the matches instead of focusing on the first few.
Ponting , on the other hand, thinks that absence of fielding & bowling coaches have put India on the back foot at the start & just like his team mates Ponting is planning to hit success in the first few matches.
It remains to be seen whether India can come back good in the later part of the series. Experts including Ian Chappel think that fielding for India may again be the Achilles heel.
MS Dhoni's debut in ODI captaincy occurred in 2007 during the last series at home between India & Australia when Dravid had stepped down from captaincy at the end of the England tour. In that series India lost 2-4. Although Dhoni covered it up by a brilliant win during the 3 nation CB series in Australia in 2008, a series win at home would herald his 3rd year in captaincy with the right amount of positive energy. Dhoni's record in captaincy has surely been above average & the results in this series will indicate whether he has the mettle to overtake Sourav "Dada" Ganguly's record or for that matter even Azhar's run of successes in the nineties. (Its a pleasure, by the way, to see Sourav quickly fit into the role of a sharp analyst. The content of Sourav's analysis is focused on purely cricketing matters although the style remains aggressive & more so now.) Sourav like Gavaskar thinks the series could be decided 4-3 in India's favour & with some luck it can even be 5-2. Dada's advice to Dhoni is not to waste his 'explosive strokeplay' by batting lower than the 5th position. It remains to be seen whether Dhoni can light up the 'worn-out' series with a superlative display of batting & captaincy skills to match the bristling form of the Aussies. Hopefully a fit & fresh Tendulkar can support Dhoni with a vintage performance to cherish in his 20th year of international cricket. Notwithstanding the high expectations from the fiery Sehwag ; if Dhoni fails in this series, Sehwag may jump to be the front runner to Indian captaincy just-in-time for the 2011 World Cup preparations.