India and Australia reacted differently, albeit on predictable lines, the day after the first Test ended prematurely at the MCG on Thursday with the home team emerging victorious by 122 runs.

The Aussies not only partied hard, but also upped the ante by naming a fit-again Ryan Harris in the squad for the Sydney Test. An ageing Indian line-up, which could not handle Australia's three pace bowlers - James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus - on an MCG track that offered bowlers a spongy bounce, may now have to confront an all-pace attack as Australia mull dropping lone spinner Nathan Lyon at the SCG.

The three Aussie pacers may not have set the Yarra on fire with their scorching pace, but the relentless consistency with which they hit the right areas on the drop-in pitch left Indian batsmen nonplussed. Unable to meet fire with fire, or get away from the firing line, MS Dhoni's lads were sitting ducks for the Aussie pacers who appeared to be primed for the occasion.

In stark contrast, the body language of Indian players, including that of their skipper, was rather poor. The longer the Australian tail wagged on fourth day morning, the more was the frustration in the Indian ranks and their shoulders drooped.

By the time they launched their chase, there was clearly no belief in the Indian side that the 292-run target could be achieved. Virender Sehwag, whose batting philosophy has always been based on 'maaro ya maro (hit or get hit)', resembled a dead man walking, while all others, barring Tendulkar, who followed him were all walking dead.

It was not Australia's margin of victory, but the manner of India's capitulation that dominated the newspaper columns and coffee-shop talk here on Friday morning. Even the Aussies were surprised by the lack of spine in India's batting display. Australian pacers will never admit it publicly, but it was clear as daylight that the reluctance of Indian batsmen to slug it out in the middle certainly made their task easier.

True to their 'style' most Indian players preferred to remain cooped up in their hotel rooms, shunning the media and fans even as Cricket Australia 'fielded' Siddle, one of the heroes of the Boxing Day Test, to take some pointed questions.

Indian team manager Shivlal Yadav hedged all queries about the possibility of Indian players going on a cruise in the Sydney harbour on the New Year's eve. The CA, however, confirmed that players of both the teams will have afternoon tea with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the New Year's Day. The hide-and-sulk policy that the Indian embraces after every big loss is fast losing its appeal as well as effectiveness.

Instead of the coach and the skipper putting their hand up and assuring all the stakeholders in Indian cricket that corrective steps would be taken to set things right, there has only been a deafening silence. The fearless Dhoni, whose bravado won us the World Cup final, of late resembles a lamb to the slaughter in Test cricket, especially when India plays abroad. The skipper blamed batting failure for the debacle at the MCG, but had no answers to how it can be averted in future.

"We are known to be late starters and somehow always struggle in the first Test. Hopefully, we will reverse the trend in the next three matches," said Dhoni while trying to explain what went wrong at the MCG.

The title of "Coach Who Walks" sits nicely on Duncan Fletcher, who shuns limelight like plague, but even after seven months into his job, he is yet to share his vision for Indian cricket. Nor do we know his reaction post India's latest overseas loss. Incidentally, it was India fifth straight Test loss abroad after he took over the reins. Like Dhoni, he will also be hoping that the New Year will bring better results.

Dhoni, who has now lost seven of the 17 Tests in which he has led India abroad, is only too aware that the aura of World Cup win is no insurance against consistent failure. An England-like verdict Down Under could send Indian cricket into a tailspin and pull the plug on a few remarkable careers.

Santa Claus surely filled Clarke's kitty with a lot of goodies on Christmas Day. Dhoni would be hoping that the New Year ushers in a new dawn in Indian cricket as the old order gives way to new.

Keywords;India ,Australia ,MCG , Ryan Harris ,Sydney Test,pace bowlers,James Pattinson, Peter Siddle , Ben Hilfenhaus , spinner Nathan Lyon ,SCG,MS Dhoni, Aussie pacers , Indian players, skipper,Virender Sehwag, batting philosophy, Boxing Day Test,
Indian team manager ,Shivlal Yadav , Sydney harbour, New Year's eve,Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard , World Cup final,Duncan Fletcher, Dhoni,Clarke's kitty , Christmas Day.