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India winning against Aussies hangs by an ankle ligament and a hamstring


December 23, 2011 - Melbourne

For all the hype and hysteria surrounding the much vaunted Indian batting line up, the visitors lack bowling firepower going into the first of four Tests against Australia Down Under.

Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, at their best, form a two-prong spearhead to trouble the best of batting line-ups, but both are far from certain to be at their best as they are returning from long-term injuries.

Sharma, in particular, has been a nemesis of Australia batsmen since he shot to prominence during the 2007-2008 Test series Down Under, and Fox Sports Stats statistics suggest India may be shot ducks if he is unable to partake fully during the series.

India, rightfully, fear he will be unable to participate fully as he struggles with the ankle injury that surfaced in the second Test against England in August.

Sharma, the 13th-leading wicket taker for India in Test matches, and the fourth-leading fast bowler behind Kapil Dev, Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath, bowled only 9.3 largely unmenacing overs in the two practice matches against the Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in Canberra in the run-up to the first Test on December 26.

In Zaheer's case, he hardly bowled in the tour opener against Somerset then pulled up with a hamstring injury after bowling a few overs in the opening Test at Lord's. st.

Sharma's spell on Australia's batsmen is illustrated by his record of 24 wickets at 36.20 in eight Tests against the Baggy Green.

He has enjoyed more wicket-taking success against only West Indies (27), Fox Sports Stats show.

His record in Australia is less impressive, but four of his six scalps Down Under were the wickets of Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting.

India can perform without Sharma, losing only one of the seven Tests he has missed since becoming a regular selection - against South Africa in Ahmedabad in 2008.

But those Tests were all played in India, where India are very hard to defeat, and Fox Sports Stats show that India are better with Sharma in the side.

Ignore the 4-0 whitewash in England this year - when India were poor but injury ravaged - and India have lost only six of the 37 Test matches in which Sharma has played.

More important than those basic records, Fox Sports Stats show that India failed to take 20 wickets in any of the four Tests they either lost or drew without Ishant Sharma.

India also run the very real risk of losing Zaheer Khan, their second-leading wicket taker in Tests (273 at 31.78, from 75 Tests), for at least part of the series.

Australia bowling legends Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have both rubbished India's bowlers, Warne labelling the tourists' attack "weak" and McGrath saying "they lack a little bit in the bowling".

Both comments were made about an attack featuring Zaheer and Sharma.

Take the spearheads out of the equation, and India are left with only left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha among their bowlers who has played a Test against Australia.

ANI

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