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India and Australia see themselves again pitted against each other six months after the Border-Gavaskar series which was filled with controversy and high-quality cricket.
The bilateral series seemed irrelevant to some, as it was being assumed that the side may lack the intensity. However, both the teams looked in no mood to take it easy in the opening ODI in Chennai. Fans are now assured that the remaining four ODIs of the series will offer some close fought games despite Australia surrendering quickly in the series opener.
Michael Clarke, the former Australia skipper, who is now a part of the commentary team, feel the rivalry between both the teams has certainly flared up in recent times and has gained greater significance.
“Being an Australian, I have relished the battle for the Ashes with England, but having played against India in India and also back home, I can tell you that an India-Australia series is no different. The contests have become more intense, as you would expect when two top teams in the world go hard at each other. Also, with top Australian players spending so much time in India because of the IPL, I expect more great contests in future.”
In the past few years, the debate surrounding the quality of talents emerging from T20 version has been ongoing with some steam. It has attracted divided options. While one section of experts and fans believe it has been beneficial, the other one has been quite adamant to prove that good Test player is born from first-class cricket.
“I haven’t heard of a junior player who doesn’t want to play Test cricket. I think the shorter formats, including the T20 franchise leagues, have contributed enormously to the growth of the game. Without T20 cricket, we might not have seen a David Warner or a Hardik Pandya.”
“Conventionally, the route to Test cricket was through first-class matches. What do you think of the latest trend where cricketers are graduating to from T20 to ODI to Test cricket?”
“I see nothing wrong with that. It sure is another option. My numbers in first-class cricket were not great, but I did well in the shorter format which earned me Test selection. To me, it doesn’t matter how you get there. What matters is whether you are ready when you are there and perform.”
T20 cricket has also been subjected to the criticism of being the killer of “Test format”. This opinion has crept mainly due to the waning interest in the Test format in recent times.
“I don’t quite agree. What is happening is a lot of senior players are opting out of the longer format at the back end of their careers. AB de Villiers has played over 100 Tests; JP Duminy too has been around for a while.”
Speaking about the current series, Clarke looked confident about the Steve Smith-led side scripting a turnaround and making the things interesting again. India went up 1-0 after an impressive victory in Chennai in a one-sided contest which initially promised to be in favour of the Australians.
Powered by super spells from Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mark Stoinis, the visitors had India reeling at 87/5, but eventually failed to deliver the knockout blow. MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya got into rebuilding the innings and ended up forming a highly memorable stand to save India.
Later, in the rain-interrupted chase, which forced the game reduced to 21 overs, Australia suffered a batting collapse and failed to achieve the target.
“I think Australia can still win the series, but for that, they need to find a way to win in Kolkata. The conditions here should suit them, and they need to make it count.”