With the Indian cricket team's recent success in the Champions Trophy under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, comparisons have been drawn with that of the Australian team, which won the World Cup in 2003.
It seems very quick to compare such a young team with that of the Australian greats, even if they did go through the entire tournament unbeaten.
Both the teams however, seem to be perfectly balanced squads, with a phenomenal strength in batting and bowling. We therefore look at a comparison between the two teams, with each department.
The 2003 Australian team has often been considered as the strongest batting line-up of all time. With explosive openers in Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, they had the most consistent and aggressive batsmen.
Along with another dependable star, Ricky Ponting to follow at number three, they made up of the core in Australia's batting.
If there came a time when all three failed, they had the backing of Damien Martyn, Australia's current coach, Darren Lehmann and Andrew Symonds. However, their batting ended with Michael Bevan as none of their bowlers were ever known to contribute with the bat. It was nevertheless a solid batting line-up, which bowlers and captains worldwide feared to face.
The Indian team was always known primarily for their batsmen and yet again, it was the batsmen that impressed the most this Champions Trophy.
Shikhar Dhawan was in scintillating form with a solid understanding with his opening partner Rohit Sharma. They both complemented each other perfectly and it was often these two that won the games for India this tournament.
Just like Ricky Ponting, India have a solid number three in Virat Kohli. He is the winner of the ODI Cricketer of the Year award and ranked third currently in the ODI Batsmen Ratings.
He seems to have come of age in the past year and is India's most stylish, consistent and dependable batsman. With Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to follow, they have a very deep batting core.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is ranked fifth, is one of the most dangerous batsmen once set and with the current form of Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja, no score is good enough to defend against this batting line-up.
One area where this team might edge the Australian Legends is that their bowlers can stick in at the crease as well. Ravichandran Ashwin is more than capable with the bat with a Test hundred to his name; Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has done well scoring runs towards the end of the innings while we all know how Ishant Sharma saved India along with VVS Laxman against Australia in Mohali in 2010.
This is probably due to the IPL influence and the fact that Mahendra Singh Dhoni likes all his batsmen to bowl and his bowlers to bat.
Although I feel that the batting of the two teams seem to be an even match, the bowling of the Australian team in 2003 was far greater than that of the current Indian team.
The likes are of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvaneshwat Kumar are nowhere near the likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespee. Although the Indian bowlers are all young, they have a long way to go before one can compare them to the Australian trio.
However, one cannot neglect the similarities between them and what these three can offer. Glenn McGrath was known for his precision in his line and length and on his skill to move the ball both ways. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is showing a lot of promise in exactly those areas.
One can compare Ishant Sharma to Jason Gillespee because of the height from which they both release the ball. They both even have a really good bouncer in their bag. Umesh Yadav and Brett Lee are both deadly with the pace they possess.
However, India are far ahead in terms of spin bowling. On one hand we have a bowler who’s ranked third and just won the Golden Ball award in the Champions Trophy, along with a mystery spinner who is ranked ninth, against the likes of Brad Hogg and part-timer Darren Lehmann; things just don’t seem comparable.
If Australia are far ahead when it comes to pace bowling, India easily have the better spinners. And give them a spinning track and they can even defend scores such as 129 in an ICC tournament final.
India’s current crop of players are probably the greatest catchers and ground fielders of modern cricket and as a unit, this Indian team is possibly the greatest fielding unit of all time. They make a score of 150 look 200+ just through their fielding. With Raina, Jadeja, Kohli, Rohit Sharma and even Ashwin at slips, it’s really hard to see the 2003 Australian cricketers do better on the field. Fielding is easily India’s plus point.
In case of wicket-keeping, I would give it a tie. Adam Gilchrist is often considered the greatest wicketkeeper of all time with 417 catches and 55 stumpings in One Day Cricket alone. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has considerably improved in his keeping from when he started and is often called the greatest keeper among the current crop. Both the keepers are lighting quick behind the stumps and often very reliable.
Ricky Ponting is the most successful captain in cricketing history. The only trophy that has evaded him is the T20 World Cup. However, Dhoni has won everything there is to be won. He currently captains the top ODI team and is often named Captain in ICC Team of the Tournament and ICC Team of the Year. He can probably handle his bowlers much better and is an innovative thinker.
Compared to Ponting, he takes a lot more risks. One minute, he would be keeping, and the next one you would be seeing him bowl his medium pace. Dhoni experiments a lot more than Ponting. However, I would not call either one of them the better captain solely due to the reason that they captained at different periods. With T20 on the rise, one has to captain the way Dhoni does now and Ponting was the perfect captain back then. It’s another tie here.
The two teams seem evenly matched with a solid captain, keeper and batting core. Although the Australian team had the better pace bowlers, the Indians have the better spinners and fielders.
It is probably too soon to compare the Indian side to the Australian Greats due to the number of achievements of those legends. However, it would really have been to see these two teams battle it out in a ODI game to finally settle the score of which team is the greatest.
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