Pat Cummins was chuffed to hear Tim Paine rates him as a contender to be Australia’s next Test captain, but the gun paceman says the topic remains a moot point while the keeper is still playing.
With Christmas festivities out of the way, the nation’s attention turns to the biggest day on the Australian sporting calendar. The Boxing Day Test gets underway today as Australia takes on India at the MCG in what looms as an entertaining match, with plenty of questions to be answered for both sides.
Let’s ponder a few…
Can Australia take twenty wickets for the match?
India’s batting line-up has been its strength for many years, and the batting mainstays for the past decade remain as dangerous and difficult as ever to remove from the crease. Virender Sehwag is the most attacking Test opening batsman in world cricket and is capable of changing the momentum of a match in an hour with his shot-making.
The Australian side will be looking to take his wicket cheaply to limit the damage he causes on the scoreboard. Rahul Dravid is not called ‘The Wall’ for nothing, and is harder to remove than red wine from a white shirt. Sachin Tendulkar is an all-time great of the game and will be looking for a memorable final tour of Australia. The bowling line-up for Australia has been in reasonable form lately, but will find much stiffer resistance from the Indian batsmen than they encountered from the Black Caps.
What spirit will the match be played in?
The last Test series between these two nations in Australia was a spiteful one, with both teams feeling aggrieved that the other did not play the game in the right spirit. Thankfully the main antagonists from that series are no longer front and centre in the current teams. That being the case, there is a good chance it will be the quality of cricket which is memorable this time around, and not the off-field claims and counter-claims which occurred the last time India toured Australia.
Will Tendulkar score his 100th international century?
India’s batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar needs just one more century to chalk up his 100th ton in international cricket, and what better place to do so than the Boxing Day Test match. Tendulkar is the greatest batsman of his generation and has scored 99 centuries in Test and one-day cricket over the course of his career.
Tendulkar has played some of his greatest innings against Australia, and averages 60.6 with eleven centuries from 31 Tests against Australia. Coming off a score of 92 (retired) against the Chairman’s XI in Canberra last week, Melbourne could well be the scene of Tendulkar’s hundredth international ton.
Which Australian batsmen will stand up?
Australia’s batting line-up has been more fragile than an antique Christmas ornament in the past two years. The Australian batsmen need a string of good performances both individually and collectively this series to ensure their positions in the side, and to regain some faith and respectability as a group.
Veterans Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting will be looking to impress, with pressure on both to retain their positions. These two will have been setting themselves for this Test match for some time, so don’t be surprised if both play good innings in the Boxing Day Test to keep the doubters at bay for a little while yet.
It appears that the new selection panel are happy to pick in-form players for the Test team and not place too much value on retaining the incumbents if they enter a poor patch of form.
The inclusions of Ed Cowan and Shaun Marsh at the expense of the out of form Phil Hughes and the unlucky Usman Khawaja should strengthen the batting line-up. Cowan has scored four centuries this summer for Tasmania and the Chairman’s XI , and will partner the in-form David Warner at the top of the order.
Marsh scored an unbeaten 99 in his most recent Big Bash innings, and is a calm head capable of grinding out an innings when required.
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