DUBAI // Ian Chappell has acknowledged that the era of Australia's domination is "definitely" over - but he does not see them being regularly challenged by any side other than India. In the last decade, Australia have been involved in 37 Test series, winning 30 of them. They have drawn three but lost four series; twice in India and once each in England and Sri Lanka. The Aussies could be headed for their third defeat in India if they fail to win the final Test starting today in Nagpur.
"I wrote before the series that Australia has not been this vulnerable since they took the world crown from the West Indies in the mid 1990s," says Chappell, the legendary Australian captain. "Australia has been coming back to the field for a few years now. You look at the class of players they have lost, going back to Ian Healy, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor those guys. You are not going to get better when you are losing those sort of players.
"So their period of domination is definitely over, but they will still win, particularly with the opposition that is around. "The one thing you do know about the Australians, particularly under Ricky Ponting, is that they will fight like hell. They won't beat themselves. To beat them, you will have to play pretty good cricket and I thought that India played really well in Mohali." India and Australia have played 24 Tests in the last decade, with the Aussies winning 10 and losing eight. No other team has come close to challenging the mighty Aussies and Chappell doesn't see anyone doing that in the near future.
"Apart from India, I don't see much that is out there that is going to beat Australia on a regular basis," he says. "South Africa are a pretty average side really and the others are not much better." India and Australia have been involved in some memorable cricket moments in the recent past. Dean Jones' heroics in the tied Test at Chennai in 1986-87 are part of the game's lore. VVS Laxman's epic in Kolkata and Harbhajan "Turbanator" Singh's 32 scalps from five innings in 2001 are stuff legend; the duo snapped the Australian's 16-Test winning streak.
Down Under in 2003-04, the spirited Indians almost condemned the Aussies to their first Test series defeat at home since the 2-1 loss to the West Indies in 1991-92; but Steve Waugh waged one last battle for the Aussies, standing firm on his final day in Test cricket to deny the Indians. In 2004, Ricky Ponting's Aussies were finally successful in their quest of a series win in India and took home the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the first time in five years. The most emotionally-charged contest between the two sides, however, came earlier this year; Australia managed to win the series 2-1, but after a lot of drama and controversy when Harbhajan Singh was sanctioned for alleged racist comments against Andrew Symonds.
With a history as intense as that, there is no wonder Australia against India is accepted as the premier contest in world cricket. "It [India v Australia] has certainly been the most competitive cricket for some time now," says Chappell. "The only other one that could challenge would have been the Ashes series [of 2005], but then England lost 5-0. There is not much point in challenging in one series and then getting walloped.
"What India have done, since they beat Australia at home in 1998, they have been challenging consistently. India and Australia have been like that for 10 years." email@example.com