India’s Best Chance to Thrive in an Australian Summer
Ever since the ball tampering scandal the Indians face a weakened Australian side
In the Indian cricket fraternity, a full tour of Australia is traditionally considered the ultimate test of players' skill, character and temperament. Both countries have in the past produced some riveting contests on the field. But despite having played some competitive cricket, India's record in Australia is still pretty average, especially in the red-ball format.
Since India's inaugural tour of Australia in 1947-48, the teams have played 44 Tests in that part of the world, of which the Indians won only five while losing 28. They have yet to win a Test series Down Under, and as we gear up now for another tour of Australia, this is by far India's best chance to claim glory.
Ever since the ball tampering controversy in Cape Town earlier this year Australian cricket has been in the disarray, both on and off the field. With Steven Smith and David Warner still under suspension, there is a serious lack of quality in their dressing room, especially in the batting department. The Australian team India will face in this series is perhaps the weakest they have ever encountered in a bilateral tour Down Under.
In hindsight, despite the recent series defeats in South Africa and England, the Virat Kohli-led Indian team was extremely competitive in challenging conditions. They are still the No. 1 Test team in the world and are presently aiming to be the best touring side. Their pace bowlers have done exceptionally well in the past couple of years, and enjoyed extraordinary outings in both South Africa and England, making the opposition batters sweat to get going in home territory. Fans will hope for a similar sort of effort from the likes of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah on bouncy Australian pitches.
There is variety in the spin section as well. Alongside the traditional off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja, the unorthodox left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav can be India's trump card against the relatively inexperienced Australian batting line-up.
When it comes to batting, however, barring skipper Kohli it was the scratchy batting unit which let to India's downfall in South Africa and in England. Most Indian batsmen failed to put up significant contributions consistently on those bowler friendly pitches. But in Australia the wickets are expected to be far more supportive to the batsmen. There will be bounce for sure, but with significantly less sideways movement than the Indians encountered in their last two tours.
And besides the big guns like Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay, there are quite a few exciting young prospects in the Indian Test squad. Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari have already made an impression in their short Test careers. But in Australia, against Mitchell Starc and company, these youngsters will be tested for sure. For comeback man Rohit Sharma, the tour will be the ideal opportunity to establish himself as a Test batsman in this Indian line-up.
Meanwhile, learning from past mistakes, the team management has decided to give the players ample time to acclimatise to conditions. Some of the Test team are already in New Zealand with India A, playing red-ball matches, while others are in Australia for the three-match T20I series. Prior to the first Test in Adelaide, which starts on December 6, Kohli and Co. will play a four-day first class warm-up game against a Cricket Australia XI. So, they are giving themselves the best possible chance to get prepared for this series.
Overall, the prime challenge for India in this tour will be to get rid of the vulnerability in their batting department. If they can do that, there is no reason the visitors shouldn't win the four-match series hands down.