It is a generic home truth that as far as India is concerned, it is the batsmen who are going to win you matches. But this basic fact takes on a deeper shade in recent matches against Australia.
One way or the other, the Australians generally have managed to put up a solid batting performance, and this they will almost certainly do so at home on wickets that are likely to be batsmen friendly, leave alone suiting the Indian bowlers. There is a heavy dependence on Dravid, Sachin and Laxman, and to a lesser extent Ganguly, and should they fail, the gulf will be too vast for Yuvraj, Dhoni and Jaffar to fill. None of them are regular 200+ batsmen (yet), and such will be the need.
Ponting is an interesting element in the equation. Australia have tasted limited success against India, and Ponting even less so. He missed a first hand taste of the one time Australia defeated India, being out with injury. He will be looking to set that bit of history straight.
India most consistent and successful batsman in this decade against Australia has been Sehwag, and it is worth considering for a minute the fact that he will almost certainly not play until the third test in Perth. Recent form vs Potential vs Past performances is a complicated debate, and it is unlikely that the team management will (or should) take the gamble of replacing Jaffar with Sehwag (there is no one else who can be replaced) in Melbourne.
Australia are going in with a much stronger bowling attack than they have in the past three tournaments. Shane Warne, with all due respect, has never really bothered Indians (see stats on the series pages), so the only serious vaccum is the one left by Mc'grath. But that has been made up by an ensemble that is more potent than any India have faced in recent times, with Lee, Tait, Clarke, Bracken and Johnson all looking good. Of course, the Indian team has a better support cast as well through Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan.
Gilchrist has had surprisingly little to say in Australia's wins and losses against Indian. The Indians will have to keep him quiet this time as well, to keep from adding to the more-than-sufficient number of problems they are going to face earlier up the order - with Hayden, Ponting and Clarke supplied with renewed artillery through Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds and Phil Jacques.
So, making tremendous poetic and dramatic sense, for the Indians it all boils down to the battle-hardened veterans. All populist calls of doing away with the fuddy-duddy seniors and going in with the 'new blood' will have to cease as Laxman, Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble will look for one final hurrah in their jewelled cricketing careers, a chance to harvest the biggest crown of them all, a Test win in Australia.
For all the spunk that the 'young guns' possess, none of it will be enough for a win without the platform of the five core men. Tendulkar has publicly rued the fact that for all his records and runs he doesn't have in his showcase a single World Cup trophy. A series win in Australia, one suspects, will more than make up for that little unfulfilled quest.