IND V AUS | BORDER - GAVASKAR TROPHY
3RD TEST, SCG PREVIEW
starting on 6 January, 2021 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The situation is vexing yet unavoidable and a constant test of your nerves. You may opt on distracting yourself by launching into a tongue twister or alliteration such as the headline of this article suggests.
As an ardent cricket fan, you saw Rohit Sharma walk into controversy after meeting his teammates. See related story: Bio Bubble Controversy & Ganguly's Heart Attack: What Team India, Rahane Didn't Want in 2021 Is Here!
Now, the New South Wales authorities who had not made wearing masks mandatory across the state until year-end 2020, have woken up.
Australian cricket fans, many among them Indians living there, are witnessing suburbs banned from the SCG Test.
Citizen fans from Wentworthville, seen as a Covid-19 hotspot, along with Belmore, Berala, Auburn, Lidcombe North, Potts Hill and Regents Park -- places that surround the Sydney Central Business District have been blocked from visiting the SCG and even warned of heavy penalty, if they try to buy tickets.
A report from 7News says that "NSW Health issued an alert on Wednesday for venues including a Pizza Hut and a Woolworths supermarket in Wentworthville after the state recorded four new locally acquired infections."
According to ABC, NSW Health has identified specific venues that were visited by Covid-19 affected people.
They are now urging people who stopped by these specific venues to have themselves tested and self-isolate. Among these venues are the Sydney Murugan Temple in Mays Hill and the Saravanaa Bhavan Indian restaurant, Parramatta.
The bigger test ahead of playing the 3rd Test for Team India is to ensure their loved ones, wives and kids, who are travelling with them, have not and do not venture out even wearing masks.
This again is a challenging situation. Reports have revealed that the touring Indian team do not wish to be traveling like "animals in the zoo".
"Being in quarantine has its own challenges but as a team we're focusing on the game," Cricbuzz quoted India's star stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane saying.
Good for you Rahane and for millions of India's cricket fans that the team is focusing on the game. However, such a scenario could be a huge distraction when players have their loved ones with them on tour.
Players' families are under forced confinement. This could indirectly affect the players' focus.
The restaurant controversy, the beef dish on the bill and the war of words between the India team management, Cricket Australia, that ensued could also be a factor affecting Team India players.
Australian players, unusually subdued vocally until now are itching to have a go at Rahane and his warriors.
"It's boiling away, there's some stuff starting to happen, a bit of chat starting to happen, so I think this Test is going to be fascinating not just from a cricket point of view but I think there's a bit of tension starting to boil under the surface with unnamed sources coming out from their camp saying where they want to play the fourth Test and where they don't want to go. I think it's starting to grind a few people, so we'll see how it goes," Cricbuzz quoted Paine saying.
Paine's reference is toward Team India's reluctance to travel to Brisbane for the 4th Test, then go into another quarantine. This has evoked a strong response from the Queensland state authorities.
“If the Indians don’t want to play by the rules, don’t come,” Queensland’s Health Shadow Minister Ros Bates has said.
It is very likely that Paine and his teammates will adopt former Australian captain Steve Waugh's famous "mental disintegration" tactics to unsettle the Indian players, especially their top order.
On his part, Rahane will step into another challenge of marshalling a team that now has two new pacers. Navdeep Saini is set to make his debut and join MCG debutant Mohammed Siraj and 16-Tests senior Jasprit Bumrah.
The India captain has shown exemplary poise and skill to help India level this 4-Test series 1-all. The Aussies will want to target mentally disintegrating the leader of the pack.
Rahane also has personal milestones lined up. If he scores another 109 runs, he'll be joining an elite list of players including legends Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid as players to have amassed 3000 or more away Test runs.
If he guides India to a back to back victory, he'll equal Mahendra Singh Dhoni's record of having won four Tests in a row as captain.
Rahane himself may shrug off such stats saying they do not cross his mind when he's on the field leading the side. However, the Aussies may use these as part of their jibes (read banter) at the India skipper.
This is where all 11 Team India players need to repeat their CIA - Character, Intent, Attitude performance they showed at the MCG, once again at the SCG.
The CIA program also involves patience, focus, discipline and skill. The Virat Kohli-led team that lost the pink ball Test heavily at Adelaide, lacked these and several aspects. See related story: Team India Need These 5 Upgrades, Not Knee-jerk Player Changes Ahead Of 2nd Test.
“...their greatest strength over the last couple of series has been their discipline. They [India] have been so well disciplined.." Hindustan Times quoted Australian team coach Justin Langer saying.
To counter these positive aspects in Rahane and his invigorated men, Australia have bolstered their side with David Warner's return. They are also likely to give Will Pucovski his debut despite concerns that India's bowlers will be at him with bouncers after his several concussion encounters with short pitched deliveries.
They'll have the additional task of negotiating the guile of the two Ravis - Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
So what do you, the cricket fan, expect will be the outcome of this Test?
Ajinkya Rahane (captain)
Rohit Sharma (vice captain)
Rishabh Pant (w-k)