Are you ready for the fireworks from down under?
India started their Australian tour with a 2-1 loss in the ODIs, but the real challenge lies ahead. We are not talking about the T20Is, which are currently underway in Canberra and Sydney. We are interested and excited about the four-match Test series scheduled to start from 17th December. India is the current owners of the iconic Border – Gavaskar Trophy having won 2-1 in 2018-19 when they last toured here.
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Getting back to Australia, India will receive a sterner test this time around in the longer format. Last time when they toured these shores, Australia were without David Warner and Steve Smith. Both the players were suspended at that time following their involvement in the infamous ‘Sandpaper gate’. India made the best use of their absence and proved to be too tough becoming the first South Asian team to win a Test series down under.
The story promises to play differently this time, not the least because of Warner and Smith. The duo is expected to be back in contention, although Warner’s injury in the third ODI is a cause of concern. Should he be out, they have a ready-made replacement in the young and upcoming Will Pucovski. And then, Smith is hungrier than ever to score all those runs that he has missed out in that series. One massive advantage for Australia compared to that 2018-19 series would be the presence of Marnus Labuschagne. He has established himself in the side and has shown that his hunger to score runs is second to none.
What turns the tables is the anticipated absence of Virat Kohli. The Indian captain is scheduled to go on paternity leave after the first Test, as he is expecting his first child with wife Anushka Sharma. Without a shadow of a doubt, Kohli remains India’s best batsman – in all formats –although it’s his captaincy that will be missed. Kohli managed to drive his Indian side on the front foot and meet the Aussies eye-to-eye in 2018-19.
That could be an advantage in Australia, although they will be weary of a certain Cheteshwar Pujara. A classic player cut out in the old Test mould, Pujara loves batting and wearing the attacks down. Even in the last series here down under, Pujara was the top-scorer with 521 runs playing a massive 1,258 balls in the series! He had one 50+ score and three 100+ scores with just one duck through the seven innings he played. Australia will be worried about another Herculean effort from Pujara that might stop the hosts in their tracks.
That said, the lack of a batting all-rounder – more clearly a seam-bowling all-rounder puts India at an obvious disadvantage. Australia is likely to have the youngster Cameron Green or the experienced Michael Neser covering that aspect. Man-to-man, it is Australia who has an advantage and should start as heavy favourites.
However, if there is one series that has the makeover of upsetting the odds it is Australia v India. Forget about Kohli’s absence, forget about Warner’s injury, and forget about the lack of balance in the Indian playing XI. When the 22 players set their foot out in the middle on December 17th for the first Test in Adelaide, it would be the start of a cracker of a series.