India and Australia’s cricketing rivalry is as rich as the encounters between India and Pakistan as it attracts the same enormous interest and fascination. From the late 1990s to a decade into this century, Australia have dominated India and the world cricket. Considering Australia’s India tours from 1997 tour to now, they have visited India regularly, either for a bilateral ODI series or a tri-series under the leadership of various captains such as Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and now Steven Smith is the latest man to lead them in India.

While the Test series between both the sides have never had anything less than nail-biting contests, the limited-overs battles have also been somewhere at that level of aggressiveness.

Before the 2017 ODI series, the last time Australia toured India for a limited-overs series was back in 2013. Apart from Rohit Sharma’s double hundred, the series was also remembered for an Australian – James Faulkner – who went havoc with his 29-ball 64 and helped Australia chase down India’s target of 304 in the third ODI. Although Clarke and his men lost the seven-match ODI series 3-2 with two games being abandoned due to rain, they at least did not make the series one-sided in the favour of the hosts.

In fact, it were the Australians won two matches out of the first three, unlike this current squad.

Numbers go against Smith

Whenever India and Australia have locked horns, be it any format, there has been a special fizz, zest and the comprehension of aggression.

But, when Smith’s boys played India in the five-match ODI series, all these factors seemed to be missing in their camp. In the last few years at least, India have never won a five-ODI series against Australia in the first three matches itself. However, even that turned into reality this time when Virat Kohli and Co outplayed Australia in all the aspects, leaving the opponents clueless about their miserable situation.

One of the best spinners produced by India, Harbhajan Singh, who has been out of the side for a very long time now, has featured in some of the best battles between India and Australia. The legendary off-spinner, in a chat with Sportswallah, said, “I haven’t seen such a weak Australian team ever in my life. Luckily, I have been part of many memorable battles between India and Australia. None of them were one-sided affairs. In the ongoing series, India has outplayed Australia in every aspect.”

The going has not been easy for Steve Smith so far. Image Courtesy: ICC

Let alone, Asia, this Australian side has failed to create any impacts in other continents too. The last time Australia won an away ODI series was in 2016 when they toured Sri Lanka. Ever since Smith had succeeded Clarke as Australia’s full-time skipper in 2015, they have played a total of six away ODI series and out of which they have won only two (in England – 2015, in Sri Lanka – 2016) and lost in New Zealand (twice), hammered 4-1 and 5-0 in India and South Africa respectively. Smith, so far, has captained in 46 ODIs with winning percentage not even 50. he has won only 24 ODIs out which only 10 were played outside Australia.

Meanwhile, his predecessor, Clarke, had enough experience of captaincy before he took over the baton from Ricky Ponting following the Cricket World Cup 2011. Clarke had led in 24 ODIs and won 18 of those, across the globe, before he was made the full-time Australian skipper. If you take the series post his full-time captaincy into consideration, he captained Australia in 12 ODI series outside his country and won six of those. It took Clarke three years to lose his first away series as the Aussie captain, while Smith suffered his maiden away series loss in the ODIs in his very first year.

There are many players in the current Australian team to played under Clarke. Since there has been not much change in both the teams, Smith’s captaincy will surely go under scrutiny as he has been struggling to get results away from home, while Clarke did with most of these boys.

The good old Australian times

On the other hand, speaking about Ponting, the two-time World Cup winning captain, who is regarded one of the greatest leaders in the game, his records were even better than Clarke and Smith in terms of away series; especially in India. As an Australian captain, Ponting never lost a bilateral ODI series in India. Under Ponting’s captaincy, Australia beat the hosts India in two bilateral series (2007-08, 2009-10), Australia won the ICC Champions Trophy in India (2006-07) and they triumphed in 2003-04’s TVS Cup that also included New Zealand.

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Apart from the two World Cup, Ponting had 18 series, on non-Australian soils, to show off on his CV.

Nevertheless, it won’t be fair to compare Smith’s captaincy right away to Ponting for the reason that the latter had the legends such as Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Michael Bevan, Brad Hogg among many others who have left a legacy behind. The current Australian team is nowhere close to those guys and hence it’s a task for Smith to pull them from this grave. Not that the current team is a bunch of average players – a few of them are a part of the top 10 of the ICC rankings and others also possess enough capability to at least display moderate level game of cricket.

Considering only away and neutral ODIs, Australia have played 478 matches, winning 278, losing 173, 21 No Results and six were tied. If you consider only away matches, Australia are on the top of the list with 171 wins ahead of Pakistan (149) and India (135). If Australia keep their away record poor with sheer consistency, it is sure shot for them to drop in this particular case.

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The team that is still India, getting ready for the T20I series, has many important players missing due to injuries and that only weakened the side. However, that is still not an acceptable reason for the performance they put up in their 1-4 loss against India recently. Between 2000 and 2010, Australia never lost a bilateral ODI series in India so there is no reason good enough for a world champion side to produce such horrible cricket; particularly when the World Cup is just two years away now.

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