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NEW DELHI: Standing on the cusp of history, an upbeat India will go for the kill against a beleaguered Australia as they aim for an unprecedented 4-0 clean sweep by inflicting another defeat on the visitors in the fourth and final cricket Test starting here today.
Although the Indian team under Mohammed Azharuddin enjoyed a clean sweep against Graham Gooch’s England back in 1993 but it was a three-Test series.
In their 81-year history of Test cricket, India have never won four consecutive Test matches in a series and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys will certainly hold the distinction of being the first if they can get past Michael Clarke’s men at the Feroze Shah Kotla.
On paper, India start as overwhelming favourites on a low and slow Feroz Shah Kotla track as the Aussie batsmen are yet to decode India’s spinners during a series which will be remembered for all wrong reasons from the visiting team’s perspective.
Adding to their woes, Clarke is a doubtful starter and his unavailability will only dent their chance of salvaging some pride and ending the series on a happy note.
Clarke said there are doubts over his participation due to his chronic back injury.
“At this stage, there is still doubt of me pulling up fit enough to play tomorrow but I’ve been given every opportunity. I’ll have plenty of treatment again today. I’ve got another 24 hours to assess my fitness and do everything I can to get myself right to play this Test match,” said Clarke during a press conference.
Clarke said he has been ‘touch and go for a number of games’ in the past and hoped to get fit to perform at his best.
“I’ve been touch and go for a number of games, especially in the shorter form of the game. Boxing Day Test this summer, I was touch and go all the way up to the end until I passed the fitness Test. I’ve never missed a Test due to injury so I don’t want this to be the first. If I’m going to play then I’ll be fit to perform at my best. If I can’t do that then I won’t be available for selection,” he said.
Clarke said his chronic back injury will in no way cut short his international cricket career.
“No, I don’t think so, it won’t have any impact,” he said. “It hasn’t had any impact in regards to my Test cricket at this stage. I don’t think it will play any role at all,” said Clarke.
Shikhar Dhawan would be cursing his luck that he is missing out on an opportunity to play a Test match in front of his home crowd after suffering a knuckle injury while fielding.
This will mean a tricky situation as to who will be opening the innings. For all practical purposes, it is supposed to be Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane who should be partnering the in-form Murali Vijay.
The bowling attack looks more or less settled with both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and especially Ishant Sharma putting up a much improved performance in the Mohali Test match. With Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja also posing a lot of problems, the picture doesn’t look bright for senior pro Harbhajan Singh. The veteran of 101 Test matches is likely to sit out once again at the expense of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha.
For Australia, Shane Watson is all set to make a comeback after the ‘Homework gate’ episode while James Pattinson looks to be a direct replacement of injured left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc, who will undergo an ankle surgery.
From: India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Suresh Raina, Ashok Dinda.
Australia: Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson, Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon, Moises Henriques, Xavier Doherty, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Johnson. AGENCIES