if the indians bat well, they won't lose the series 4-0. if the indians bowl well, they won't lose the series 4-0. if the indians bowl and bat well, they might lose the series 2-1. if the indians bat, bowl and field well, they might not lose the series. but no matter what the indians do, they will not win the series. unless...
the last time the indians were in australia, rahul, sourav, laxman, sehwag and akash chopra played out of their skins. sachin scored a double hundred without attempting the cover drive - which had contributed to his dismissal in the previous three innings - at any time during his knock. agarkar bowled like a man possessed - and not at all like the ajit agarkar we know. anil kumble did something he hadn't done for a very long time in his career up until then: consistently took wickets in a series outside the sub-continent. the captain and the coach got along with each other. heck, the captain had a coach. what do the indians have this time?
in a land which demands that batsmen always be at the top of their game and possess the most quicksilver of reflexes at all times, we have an ageing quartet of batting legends with waning skills and little more than the hunger to top their last performance down under with an even higher peak - a tall order, like no other they have so far encountered in their illustrious careers. in other news, the indians this time do come armed with a bowling attack less experienced but more talented than the one they challenged the australians with the last time - admittedly a big plus. unfortunately, what they don't come equipped with - and what they did during the previous tour - is an opening batsman with a iron-cast defense solid enough to see off the likes, and dislikes, of lee and company. (and that includes the delectable wasim jaffer.)
sehwag's technique - even in the best of times a bit iffy - nowadays betrays more gaps than a bad set of teeth. dinesh kartik hasn't scored enough runs in the most recent of times to back his copy-book skills and guarantee himself a place in the side. rahul dravid continues to be a reluctant opener. and as great as yuvraj might be, he's definitely not good enough to see off the new ball. all these things considered, it'll be a miracle if india manage to get past 450 every time they bat, which is the minimum they will need, to somewhat test the aussies.
luckily, this team has more than a handful of men bloody-mindedly determined to make a point or three; something they'll need to overcome the mighty australians in their own backyard.
rahul will be out to prove the chairman of the selectors wrong, and a few things to himself again. sourav would like to bury the ghosts of guru greg and australia in this his last tour of a country whose people don't exactly have a very high opinion of him. laxman will want to live up to his standard issue comment that he relishes the extra challenge of facing up to the relentlessly aggressive australian bowlers - we'll have to wait and see if he still relishes it in the evening of his sparkling career. yuvraj and dhoni will be raring to go on and establish their claim as the future of indian cricket. harbhajan, of course, has gone on record saying he'll "give it back" to the aussies. (along the way, he might also like to re-establish himself as the now-forgotten 'turbonator'.) above all, kumble must be eager to use this opportunity to remind people that he should have been made the captain of the side a lot earlier in his career.
man-to-man, the two sides look far from evenly matched. the aussies, clearly, have the aura of a superior unit. but cricket, like life, is a mind game. to a large extent, it is the inability to demonstrate adequate mental strength that has, so far, prevented india from conquering the australians in australia. it should come as no surprise that the closest the indians have come to doing so was when led by two of their toughest captains: sourav ganguly and sunil gavaskar. this time, in kumble, they have a similarly endowed skipper. how far kumble and his indians are able to maintain a high level of intensity in the face of the in-your-face ponting juggernaut is what will help them turn a most likely lost cause into an unlikely and historic series victory.
put not so simply, the way forward is to ignore the sorts who kick matters off with a negative mindset and words like 'a lost cause'. thank you for not paying attention to us sorts.