India’s best chance Down Under: Gilchrist
Mumbai, Dec 5: Former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist believes India have an opportunity to register their first ever series-win against the hosts Down Under in the four-Test series beginning December 26.
"It’s a good chance for India with Australia going through somewhat of a transition period. They are still finding their way. India have got a few good results in the last couple of series [against Australia],” Gilchrist was quoted as saying at a promotional event.
"I think Australia are aware of that. They need to be on top of their game to hold on to their [undefeated] record at home against India," he told the media.
"I think [on] the last two tours when India came to Australia, the batsmen had certainly dominated. The Indian batsmen especially have accommodated these conditions very well. In 1999-2000, when I played first against India in Australia, the conditions were a bit more difficult for them. There was a lot of grass on the wicket and a lot of bounce.
"[However] the general view is that wickets have tamed somewhat and the Indian players – they are world class players – will certainly find ways to score hundreds in those conditions. I wouldn't say there will be dead wickets but maybe [they’re] not as spicy as [they] used to be in previous years,” Gilchrist elaborated.
"The English conditions were a difficult challenge. From what I saw, there were pretty tired players in the Indian set-up in England. Hopefully they are fresh when they come to Australia and I am looking forward to that challenge," he added.
Speaking about India’s young spin attack, the southpaw said, "[Ravichandran] Ashwin will look forward to bowling in those conditions. He is a tall guy and will try to extract bounce and Pragyan Ojha playing alongside him will also be able to spin the ball. They will definitely have a role to play. They may not end up in the wickets’ column but they will have some contribution to make."
On being asked to share his thoughts on Sachin Tendulkar’s much-awaited hundredth century, Gilchrist said, "It is inevitable. It was suppose to happen at Lord's, at the home of cricket, with India playing its hundredth match against England and it was all supposed to synchronise together but it didn't happen. He missed a hundred at his home ground. It is going to happen someday. He is a class act.”
A hard-hitting batsman himself, Gilchrist, who has witnessed some of the Indian batting maestro’s innings from behind the stumps, added, "I have been standing behind him for 20 of those [centuries]. With every run he scores, he creates a new record. He breaks his own record every day. He is the best player I have seen and all the cricketing nations will be celebrating and cheering when he scores. It is not just run-scoring but how he has handled himself and has carried the weight of the nation [that is commendable]."
Discussing the way the Indian youngsters are shaping up, Gilchrist said, "I have been nothing but impressed by Virat Kohli. He looks to me like an astonishingly good player. He has an aggressive mindset. He is learning to balance the amazing skill and talent that he has with more composure and understanding of the situation.
"Rohit Sharma is a talented youngster and a terrific person I enjoyed getting to know [while playing for IPL franchise Deccan Chargers]. He knows he has got more to offer. He has got to give another 10 per cent to make that elevation into Test cricket. They have got the potential but you need to balance it [with consistent form]," he said.
The legendary cricketer lauded the young Indian speed guns too. "Aaron and Yadav looked to me like good bowlers. I was very impressed with them in the IPL though it was short [format] cricket. They don't look like the stereotypical Indian fast bowlers. I see a new breed of modern cricketers coming through, stronger [and with better] physique. If they manage to pick up and are managed well, they would be very valuable to the Indian set-up.
"I think both nations have got terrific young prospects in their bowling department particularly in fast bowling. I have seen some of these bowlers during IPL who are now bowling in Zaheer's [Khan’s] absence. I am sure they will enjoy bowling in Australian conditions," he observed.
On former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, who is currently struggling for form, Gilchrist stated, "I wouldn't expect him to be left out of the Indian series. He is keen to play. His last two innings as a player have been as impressive as anything in quite a while. He is the second best player from Australia after Sir Donald Bradman. He is the only one to know when he should finish international cricket but I would say the selectors are quite keen to have him. I am sure he will be featuring in that series."
And what were his thoughts on the absence of Harbhajan Singh from the Indian squad? "I am not in a position to comment on why he was dropped but he was a great contributor to the aggressive mindset cultivated in the Indian team by Sourav Ganguly. But the general rule now is that Indian teams come to Australia with a more positive mindset."
Recalling the epic 376-run partnership between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid in the famous 2001 Kolkata Test that helped India carve out a historic win over Australia after following on, he said, "It was one of the greatest Test victories ever. To come from behind and win the match – that is the finest batting I have seen in my professional life. It was a great match even though we were on the wrong side of the result."