Australia looking for revenge
Australia will be gunning for revenge when they square-off against India in a two-Test series, starting in Mohali on Friday.
They were comprehensively outplayed (2-0) in the last series between the two sides, and Ricky Ponting's men are keen to make amends.
Meanwhile, India, under Mahendra Singh Dhoni's leadership, have gained from strength to strength in the last couple of years and deservedly sit atop the ICC Test rankings.
It will be interesting to see what combination the hosts field for the opening Test. Pacer Zaheer Khan is back and so is S Sreesanth, while Ishant Sharma is also making a strong claim for a place in the eleven.
Harbhajan Singh is looking to hit peak form against his favourite opponents, but the second spinner's slot is going to be a tussle between Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha.
The out-of-form Gautam Gambhir also faces stiff competition from Murali Vijay, who excelled in the Champions League Twenty20, to partner Virender Sehwag as opener.
So, it seems the selectors are going to have a tough time picking the final playing eleven.
You can help them by doning the selector's hat. Pick eleven players you feel have the class to take on the formidable Aussies in Mohali.
Take the poll at the end of the slideshow and select the 11 best keeping in mind the conditions and opponent.
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Image: Team India
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
After a few hiccups things are getting back to normal for Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Disappointment in the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies was followed by triumph in the Asia Cup.
And a drawn Test series in Sri Lanka meant India retained its top ranking.
Dhoni also led Chennai Super Kings to the Champions League T20 title on Sunday.
Can his captaincy once again inspire India to a memorable win against Australia?
We hope so.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
He can decide the course of a match against any team in a matter of a session or two.
And Australia is no exception.
In fact, Ian Chappell believes Sehwag could be the key to India's fortunes in the series.
"If Sehwag successfully launches a couple of his blitz attacks against the new ball, not only will it be difficult for Australia to recover, it'll also be an enormous boost to the batsmen who follow," the legend was quoted as saying.
The Australians be warned.
Sehwag is ready to unleash himself yet again.
Image: Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir's fitness is a worry for India ahead of the Tests.
The opener, who was hit on his wrist by a rising delivery during Australia's tour opener against Board Presidents XI, didn't come out to bat again on Day 3 of the match in Chandigarh.
The team think tank though believes he will be ready.
The real picture will be clear in the next few days.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Murali Vijay made his Test debut against Australia at Nagpur (November 2008) as a replacement for Gautam Gambhir, who was given a one-Test ban.
The Tamil Nadu opener scored 33 and 41, while contributing to opening stands of 98 and 116.
A decent debut, but one that couldn't help him hold on to his place in the side.
He has come a long way though.
And his spectacular performance in the just-concluded Champions League indicates he is the man in form.
Let's see whether the form translates into performance.
Image: Murali Vijay
He has achieved almost everything the sport has to offer.
Still he strives for more.
And he enjoys playing against Australia -- he has the best record against them.
To put it honestly, we have run out of words to describe the Master Blaster.
We'll rather wait for his bat to do the talking in the upcoming series.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
It is an acid test for veteran Rahul Dravid.
The veteran has been struggling with his form for quite some time and his performance in Sri Lanka was disappointing to say the least.
A failure against Australia might as well cost him his place in the side.
And hasten an impending retirement.
We hope, he returns doing what he does best: being the wall.
Image: Rahul Dravid
VVS Laxman enjoys batting against Australia.
Who can forget that epic 281 at Kolkata in 2001?
Every occasion the Hyderabad batsman has faced the team from Down Under, he has delivered.
And to cap it all, he is in good form.
The match-winning century in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka recently is a pointer to the fact.
Image: VVS Laxman
When Suresh Raina made his Test debut, against Sri Lanka at the SSC in July, he broke Andrew Symonds's record of having played most ODIs before playing in a Test.
Raina, a member of the Indian team for ODIs since July 2005, had been part of the Indian Test squad at various stages, but was yet to play a Test.
However, an injury to Yuvraj Singh ensured him that opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands, joining the select band of players to have scored a century on debut.
At the SSC, when Sri Lanka declared at 642 for four, it seemed an uphill task for India.
It was only when Raina came in to join Sachin Tendulkar (at 241 for four) that India could breathe a sigh of relief. The duo put on a double century partnership and Raina had done enough to retain his place in the squad.
An encore will be more than welcome.
Image: Suresh Raina
The latest entrant in Team India.
For Cheteshwar Pujara the call-up to the Test squad was just reward for his consistency.
The Saurashtra batsman has had a few successful seasons in domestic cricket in the last few years, having aggregated 3925 runs in 49 matches, at an average of 60.38.
The 22-year-old also captained India A on the recent tour of England and Scotland, during which he scored 776 runs in 10 matches.
A place in the Test team was long overdue.
Whether he asserts his domestic form at the international level remains to be seen.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Harbhajan Singh shares a love-hate relationship with the Aussies.
If he troubles them on the field with his spin bowling and aggressive lower-order batting, he also gives enough statements against them to the media to ensure he is heard.
No wonder the Aussies love to hate him.
However, the 'Turbanator' is no longer the potent force he used to be, especially after the retirement of Anil Kumble.
It remains to be seen if his past record against Australia can inspire him put on yet another impressive performance.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
When Australia last toured India for a Test series -- in 2008, Amit Mishra made his Test debut.
And an impressive one at that.
He picked seven wickets in the second Test at Mohali to help his team secure a memorable win.
An injury to Harbhajan Singh and the retirement of Anil Kumble ensured he played in the next two Tests.
He impressed further. Can he impress this time?
Wait and watch.
Image: Amit Mishra
Pragyan Ojha made his Test debut against Sri Lanka last November 2009, in what tuned out to be India's 100th Test win, and ended up taking four wickets.
The left-arm spinner took five wickets in the third Test in another innings win for India.
He will be up against the Australian team for the first time. However, the Australians have already taken note of him.
"He bowled well and doesn't really give you much to hit at all, especially to me," admitted Shane Watson, after facing Ojha in the match against the Board President's XI.
"I didn't really feel like he was going to bowl wicket-taking balls all the time, but I didn't really feel like I could score heavily off him," he added.
If Ojha carries on doing this, he will be an asset to the side.
Image: Pragyan Ojha
Australian legend Ian Chappell reckons India's chances of winning the series hinges on Zaheer Khan's bowling.
"If Zaheer can regularly break through with the new ball, then it makes the rest of the attack so much more effective," Chappell was quoted as saying.
"If, on the other hand, he struggles, it will put a huge strain on the rest of the Indian bowlers," he added.
That more or less explains the importance of Zaheer in the Indian squad.
If he is able to deliver the goods yet again remains to be seen.
Image: Zaheer Khan
Ishant Sharma is far from being the promising bowler he once was.
The burden of expectations have taken a heavy toll on the youngster.
He has had to ensure repeated failures in recent times.
To his credit though, he is yet to give up.
He has troubled Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, in the past. This very fact might just as well inspire him to put in a good show.
Image: Ishant Sharma
"I feel no shyness to say that I was struggling. I would love to forget that (performance) from my book.
"It was not easy coming back from an injury, especially for a fast bowler. It takes time."
So said S Sreesanth after a vapid show for Board President's XI against Australia.
A similar show in the Tests may as well see the return of Abhimanyu Mithun, the bowler who made way for Sreesanth to be accommodated into the side.
However, like his behaviour, Sreesanth's bowling is also unpredictable.
Don't be surprised if he impresses in one match and depresses in the subsequent.
Image: S Sreesanth