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India, not Australia emerging punters favourite to nail Test series

December 19, 2011 - Sydney

Punters in Australia do not see the country's current cricket team as the favourites to beat India in the forthcoming four-Test series.

According to TAB Sportsbet's Glenn Munsie, it is remarkable for an Australian Test team not to be favourite to win a home series.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Munsie, as saying that this is the first time it has occurred since his agency opened for business, and 80 percent of bets taken so far had been on an Indian series win.

At first glance, it appeared understandable that Australia drifted from 2.20 dollar favourite to 2.40 dollar equal favourite (draw $4.00) to beat the number two-ranked Indians after their second Test capitulation to the eighth-ranked New Zealand in Hobart.

The Aussies have won only one series (against South Africa in 2009) against a top-four ranked team since the beginning of 2008.

In that period, Australia has won seven and lost fourteen Tests played against the best teams.

Their batting line-up is under siege, with misfiring veterans and unproven youngsters regularly collapsing against the moving ball. Their attack is highly inexperienced and injury-hit, reliant on raw newcomers and currently led by the brave, hardworking, but hardly world-beating Peter Siddle.

The punter's first instinct is that India, which has a batting line-up that far outstrips the fragile Aussies, should be a raging favourite.

But there are reasons why the visitors are not attracting even more money, despite the woes of the host.

Firstly, India has never won a series in Australia. In 2003/2004, they drew a series in which Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were not playing, and they also levelled the 1981 series when Kapil Dev-led attack bowled out the Aussies for 83 at the MCG when the hosts were chasing just 142 for another sweep.

Despite being highly competitive in recent visits, India has failed to win more than one match per series down under, and their overall record in the Antipodes reads: 5 wins, 22 losses, 9 draws.

India also has a bad habit of dropping the first Test of overseas tours.

Often they have not prepared properly for the rigours of bouncier, faster pitches down under.

On their last tour of Australia, in 2007, the Indians programmed just one lead-up match, which was curtailed by rain. It meant that they went into the Boxing Day Test with 48 overs of recent experience on Australian soil.

Their vaunted batting line-up succumbed to an Australian attack featuring Brett Lee, a raw Mitchell Johnson, and Stuart Clark. The series was hard fought, between the two teams then considered the best in the world, but that initial loss cost India, and the series escaped them, 1-2.

India's bowling attack is another issue curbing the considered gambler.

The pace attack looks a little iffy. Newcomer Varun Aaron, chosen in India's last Test against West Indies, has been withdrawn from the tour due to injury. His replacement should be Umesh Yadav, who took nine wickets at 21.22 in his first two Tests, in that series.

Ishant Sharma made a big impression when his pace and lift hurried up the Aussies, especially Ricky Ponting, at the start of his career in 2008, but he hasn't reached the heights expected of him since.

India has rested the 193cm right-armer from shorter forms of the game recently in a bid to help him rediscover his zip, and overcome injuries.

If he lacks the pace he showed last time in Australia, Sharma will be much less of a threat. So far on tour, he has lasted 5.3 overs. He was in doubt for the three day match preparatory match being played in Canberra from today.

Veteran left-arm medium-pacer Zaheer Khan is another key player under a cloud. He missed most of India's tour of England last winter with a hamstring injury, and has played only two local matches since.

India's highly promising spinners are inexperienced. In the absence of wrist-spinning legend Anil Kumble and combative offie Harbhajan Singh (injured), off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has made a great start to his career in his first three Tests, with 22 wickets at 22 (and a century with the bat).

And left-armer Pragyan Ojha has been steady performer with 62 wickets at 34 in his first 14 Tests. But the Indian tweakers are unlikely to be frontline weapons on flat, hard Australian pitches.

Of the likely attack, only Khan and Sharma have bowled in Australia before, making the two lead-up games all important.

Also worth considering is India's recent record away from home. The only series they have won on the road in the past three years have been against strugglers West Indies and New Zealand.


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