Australia have a huge task at hand to put up a good show in the second Test in Hyderabad starting Saturday after being routed by India in the first match by eight wickets. India's slow bowlers took all 20 wickets in Chennai, and with talks of another slow, crumbling turner at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium it would not be amiss to expect India strengthening their attack with another spinner.
Barring Michael Clarke, who scored a fine century in the first innings, and the debutant Moises Henriques, no other Australian batsmen could negotiate the Indian spinners with assurance as they chalked up all 20 wickets to script a thumping victory. Ed Cowan played well against pacers but looked shaky against spin while Phil Hughes was completely out of sorts and didn't inspire any confidence. Though David Warner scored a half-century in the first innings, his stay at the crease wasn't convincing. Shane Watson got a peach of a delivery in the second innings from R Ashwin and Australia would count on him to shrug off the disappointment of the first Test and deliver the goods in Hyderabad. Considering that he's the best batsman in the team, Clarke should promote himself to No. 4.
Australia also have a problem in the bowling - they only have Xavier Doherty to partner Nathan Lyom who Natha Lyon bowled well in patches during the first Test. Had it not been for MS Dhoni's furious onslaught, Lyon's bowling figures would have been much better. Australia badly missed the second spinner and it looks almost certain that they would go with two tweakers in the second Test. Mitchell Starc could be replaced with Doherty.
Despite being the top wicket-taker in the previous series, Ojha was excluded from the first Test with Jadeja coming in for his batting credentials.
India took a lot of positives from the first Test but it is paramount that they don't get carried away. The won the first Test against England at Ahmedabad in their last series at home but the visitors bounced back to clinch the series 2-1. Admittedly, Australia don't have the quality spinners like Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in their ranks and neither do they have the experienced batting line-up but India will do well to learn the lesson from their last failing and remain uncompromising in their quest to thump Australia.
Though Dhoni cracked a sparkling 224 and Virat Kohli chipped in with a splendid century, Ashwin's 12 for 198 was the brightest spot for India. Ashwin had failed to deliver in the Test series against England leading to questions about his Test class, but the 26-year-old produced a magnificent performance. In contrast, Harbhajan Singh - picked to play his 100th Test ahead of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha - flattered to deceive and bowled short on either side of the wicket.
Another cause of concern for India is their opening pair. Virender Sehwag failed in both innings while Murali Vijay - who was drafted into the team in place of Gautam Gambhir - was out playing slapdash shots twice. Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn't do anything of note and remained mute spectators. India may toy with the idea of replacing Bhuvneshwar with Ojha and go with the four spinners in the second Test. Despite their lacklustre performances, Vijay and Harbhajan are likely to be retained as Dhoni indicated in the post-match press conference.
Warner didn't participate in the team's practice session on Thursday due to bout of gastro and there are doubts about him playing the second Test. He had played in Chennai with a broken thumb and there's a possibility that the injury might have been exacerbated. If Warner is ruled out of the second Test, it'll be a huge blow for Australia who already have problems aplenty to sort out.
India: 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Murali Vijay, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Harbahajn Singh, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Ishant Sharma
Australia: 1 Ed Cowan, 2 David Warner, 3 Phil Hughes, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Shane Watson, 6 Moises Henriques, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Nathan Lyon, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Peter Siddle, 11 Xavier Doherty
Do you think India will play four spinners in Hyderabad?