The preliminaries are over and it is now time for the main event. It is goodbye white ball and welcome red ball as far as the Indian and Australian teams are concerned. Yes, it will be the pink ball for the first Test at Adelaide which will be a day/night game.

All the same it is now time for the traditional format after the teams have gone through the two shorter versions with honours even. Too much of course should not be read into these results as far as the Test series is concerned for the formats are totally different and require totally different skills.

Two years ago the Indian team completed a historic feat by winning a Test series in Australia for the first time since the teams started playing each other in 1947-48. Plainly put it will be difficult to repeat the achievement this time around in the four-match series that commences on December 17.

With all due credit to Virat Kohli and his men for what they pulled off in 2018-19 it has to be said that Australia were not at full strength. David Warner and Steve Smith serving out bans for their role in the ball tampering controversy were missing. One of them is a modern great and the other is already an all-time great and their absence was sorely felt.

Both of them are available this time around too even if Warner has been ruled out of the first Test through injury. An important factor is also the presence of Marnus Labuschagne who was a rookie on the previous occasion – the one Test he played against India was only his third game – but since then he has become a super star.

History too is very much against India. Out of eleven series played Down Under prior to the triumph two years ago Australia have won eight while three have been drawn. Despite performing better in away Tests over the last decade and a half Indians are still more comfortable playing at home where of course they have an awesome record. Australia are also ahead in the ICC ranks occupying top spot to India’s No 3. Of course this also signifies that whatever the result the cricket will of a high quality.

The fact that Kohli will not be available after the first Test will add to the Indians’ discomfiture. The Indian captain is next only to Smith in the ICC Test rankings and to say that he will be badly missed both as batsman and captain is stating the obvious. The Indian batting is quite strong with a number of players with proven skills but then Kohli is in a class of his own. In any case the Australian batting line-up too is pretty formidable with the presence of Smith and Labuschagne giving it the edge.

If there is one department the Indians can match the Aussies it is in pace bowling. Other than Kapil Dev who not unexpectedly was a superstar other pace bowlers excelling in Australia have included Manoj Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan. Ishant Sharma too has had his moments and it is unfortunate that he has been ruled out because of injury.

But even in his absence the trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are more than a handy bunch who can counter anything the Aussies can come up with. Shami and Yadav have been among the wickets in previous contests while Bumrah was outstanding last time out with a bag of 21 wickets in the four Tests.

Indeed for all of Cheteswar Pujara’s heroics with the bat two years ago it was the bowling of Shami, Ishant and Bumrah that was chiefly responsible for India’s maiden Test series triumph in Australia. This time the trio will be joined by the promising duo of Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj who can be expected to deliver the goods.

Of course the Australians too are well served in this department with the likes of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson around. Ultimately then it could be the battle of the pacemen that could decide the outcome of the series however strong the batting of both sides is.