Following the dismal tour of England, India’s next assignment will be the relatively easy home series against West Indies. The series, which kicks off with the first ODI on October 8, will feature five one-dayers and a T20 game apart from the three Tests. This will immediately be followed by the grueling tour of Australia, which will feature four Tests, and the tri-series with Australia and England. That’s not all, India and England would then stay back in Australia to join the other sides as the cricket World Cup kicks off.
While the BCCI’s decision to feature in the triangular series just ahead of the World Cup is a wise one, the same cannot be said about their itinerary which features a home series against the weak West Indies before they embark on the Aussie sojourn. The Aussie series will be as tough a challenge as the England series, in which the Indians went down 3-1. In fact, some greats have already predicted another 4-0 embarrassment for India, unless they can lift their game drastically. A series against West Indies, and that too at home is definitely not the right preparation for a big series like the one against Australia.
An easy series against a weak team brings in complacency into the side. In the past as well, India have struggled due to such poor arrangements of tours. In 1999, India hosted New Zealand at home in a Test and one-day series. They won the series with some level of difficulty. It wasn’t a great preparation for the Aussie tour to follow. But, in the Tests, Sadagopan Ramesh and Devang Gandhi formed a formidable opening partnership. Indian supporters and experts felt that the team had finally discovered a stable opening pair.
When India arrived in Australia, the actual reality struck. Gandhi looked completely awe of Glenn McGrath and co, and following the series never played for India again. Ramesh only did slightly better, and was injured midway through the series. The likes of Vijay Bhardwaj and Hrishikesh Kanitkar and MSK Prasad, who had done well back at home, also struggled and their India careers were all but finished after the Aussie disaster. Not only that, even Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly failed to make much of an impact in the series. Despite VVS Laxman’s 167 at Sydney, India were blanked 3-0.
This time as well, India will head Down Under with weak preparations. The likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara may hit form back home against the West Indies, but it won’t count for anything as they head into the Australia series. The Tests against the Aussies will be a completely different challenge, and it will give us a fair idea of how the youngsters have progressed since the setback in England. Kohli has tasted success in Australia before but in the wake of his recent struggles, it remains to be seen how he responds to the challenge. In fact, the entire team will be under the scanner Down Under.
--By A Cricket Analyst