Border-Gavaskar Trophy preview

Kersi Meher-Homji Columnist

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Mitchell Starc deserves an extended spell in the Australian Test side (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

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Call it a split personality disorder. Call it a home town bully syndrome. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy was inaugurated in 1996-97 and so far 32 Tests have been played with Australia leading India 14-12.

But wait for the home advantage stats. In Australia, the home team leads 10-2 (with three drawn). Contrast this with India leading 10-4 in India (with three drawn).

These figures are worth considering as Australia is about to start the tour of India soon with the first Test on the spin-friendly Chennai strip commencing on the 22nd.

Apart from the omission of NSW off-spinner Steve O’Keefe, the leading wicket-taker in Sheffield Shield so far this season, the team is well-balanced.

My first reaction on the team selection: why a squad of 17? Will there be the repeat of the rotation policy which divided the nation and weakened the team morale in 2012-13?

My second reaction: there are too many fast bowlers for a tour of India. It would be OK for England, New Zealand or South Africa. But five quickies for India?

John Inverarity and his co-selectors should have watched the India-England Test series late last year. It was won and lost because of England’s spinners Graeme Swann and ‘Monty’ Panesar.

True, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith (who rarely bowls these days) and Xavier Doherty are so far ugly ducklings compared to the match-winning Swann and Monty. But before the recent Test series in India, Monty was not considered good enough and was dropped in the first Test, the only Test England lost.

Australian off-spinner Jason Krejza was not expected to do much in India but surprised everyone by claiming 12 wickets (including an 8-fer) in his Test debut in Nagpur in November 2008. But in Australia he appeared ineffective.

So do not give up on Lyon, Doherty and Smith. One of them will surprise us as February turns to March.

I think five fast bowlers (Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Jackson Bird, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle) is a luxury on India’s grassless tracts. But this is an insurance against injuries. I’ll open the attack with Starc and Bird or Johnson, with Siddle as the first change.

I predict that Siddle will be an outstanding success on the tour.

Although Mike Hussey will be missed, Australia’s batting is strong. There are four openers: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes and Shane Watson.

I’d use Usman Khawaja at no. 3 or 4, followed by skipper Michael Clarke, Glenn Maxwell ahead of Moises Henriques and Smith.

Matthew Wade is the lone wicket-keeper in the squad. Brad Haddin should be ready with pads and gloves, inoculations, plane ticket, passport and visa in case there is an SOS.

The best news for the touring Aussie team is that India is in a state of disarray. Their tormentors Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble have retired while Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Harbhajan Singh are in poor form.

Also their captain MS Dhoni reportedly has been critical of the “selfish” attitude of Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag.

But somehow the Indian team unites when Australia tours.

So beware Clarke, of the Ides of March, which falls on the second day of the third Test!

Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.