The pressure is off, the expectations are low, so anything creditable will be a refreshing bonus for India in this contest in Mumbai. Once again they have faltered under the weight of expectations even though this time they have really valid reasons for moderate performances as a team.
Their injury toll has been horrific at an hour when they could least afford it. I doubt even Australia could expect to win without two strike bowlers, their captain, star batsman who hasn't lifted a bat for two months against a team full of confidence and brilliance.
Form deserts a percentage of every team but to foresee Dravid and Laxman's misery was impossible and it has been damaging. Let's not fool ourselves, Australia were clear favourites in this series and the result has surprised no one.
New blood for the fourth Test without the stress of worrying about the result should ensure some spark returns to the lifeless outfit that has been India. Laxman nailed an amazing century in Sydney years ago after the result mattered little so I hope he can do that again and have all others follow, to provide an appropriate finale to this series.
For these reasons I think this will be the easiest of the four Tests for the Indians to play, unless they continue to worry about their position in the team, continually watching over their shoulder for approaching traffic.
Little is expected of newly-selected players and this is the best platform from which to launch long careers. Many a career has started from outside the radar screens. Go for it, play hard and enjoy the fight but demonstrate plenty of ability to perform the tasks, that are your job. To perform your job you need to know what it is and this communication between the team prior to playing must improve. After discovering what it is that the team expects of a rookie, he must accept the responsibility of owning that role and making it his own so he can get close to performing it everyday. Once these aspects are crystal clear, even a youngster can set about enjoying his cricket.
Jason Gillespie this week referred to Australia's superior planning for the series and it is that absolute clarity of role that has allowed them to perform their facets of play magnificently as individuals.
Critics of the team's planning in Australia last summer were continually refuted by the team saying they had been outplayed by a rampaging India but everything else was spot on.
Interesting now there is an admission that maybe those critics were on to something at a time when things could have been remedied. Great to have clarity of role but there should also be a flexibility to adapt when things aren't so smooth and before critics feel the need to be involved.
This Australian team have addressed the issue of dead Tests and some past average performances, but will need to muster some real guts to maintain the stellar standards of the first three Tests in India. The desire to remain unbeaten and performing to the current levels must come from the individual and not a team meeting. One of Australia's great skills is their ability to treat every single appearance for the country as special. With workloads increasing it would be easy to develop a club mentality whereby an underachievement here or there can be tolerated but tournaments and series are still won. The Australian team is so much more than a club and efforts to approach perfection in every outing are part and parcel of the philosophy.
India must see them as a little vulnerable though. Having experienced the relief of wrapping this one up so early, Australia have to regroup all their toughness and aggression when they are feeling so content.
This game should see a better equipped Sachin Tendulkar at the wicket. All the questions he would've been asking himself about the injury withstanding five days and how he would feel at the crease have been answered. It is great credit to the man that as soon as he could lift a bat he made himself available knowing how short of form he was going to be. Time in the middle is crucial to batting form and he had none of it for three months.
In 2001 it was one bowler and a classy batting order which saw India beat Australia in the series. This year India have had neither for long enough and Harbhajan's absence from Nagpur was a killer blow. If India are to own their individual roles then they must find some consistent performers who spend quality time in the team. It is not acceptable to see injured unavailable players sitting around with the team during home Tests. This merely makes it harder for new blood to fully commit to their roles which need to be based on simplicity and repetition.
Unavailable players must return home where they can reassess their desire to perform for their country from an appropriate distance, not feel as if they are still part of it - captain or not.