India-Pakistan games have never been short on entertainment for years. However, when it comes to the traditional format, it is the India-Australia games that have never ceased to produce exhilarating moments and indeed generated great levels of competitiveness among players (with some verbal volleys thrown around, making the game more exciting).
There has been a lot of buzz on social media regarding the India-Australia Test series. As the No.1 Test team and hosts, India obviously start as favourites to win the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Their undefeated 19 Test-run is going to be a tough juggernaut for the baggy greens to break.
While Australia have not had a great record at India in the recent past, it would be foolish to underestimate them. No one would know that better than Captain Virat Kohli himself.
The Indian squad was announced some days earlier and the selectors have retained the same squad that had been selected for the one-off Test against Bangladesh.
Over the years, the batting lineup has been India’s core strength. A top order comprising batsmen with the class of Murali Vijay and the reliability of Virat Kohli is always going to make life difficult for the opposition. Vijay has recently proved what a phenomenon he has been for India in the Test format and will be looking forward to establishing his authority in the format he has always excelled in.
Cheteshwar Pujara is no doubt eager to display his greatness in his preferred format. Ajinkya Rahane was recently brought back into the mix and he did not disappoint against Bangladesh. Moving down to the lower order, Wriddhiman Saha put up a tremendous display in Hyderabad and would be looking to replicate the same against the Aussies as well.
One thing that's absolutely groundbreaking for the home side is that the batting lineup runs really deep. With the likes of Pandya and Jadeja and maybe even Jayant Yadav, it is going to be quite a task for the Aussie bowlers to get India all out. Ravichandran Ashwin has got four Test centuries to his name and can be a force to reckon with even while batting.
Karun Nair created history against England last year with a splendid triple century in the final Test. Adding to that, he's not even expected to make the starting eleven for the first Test. This is proof of how herculean this Indian batting lineup is.
Having established their prowess in the subcontinent, Ashwin and Jadeja have been lethal weapons. Time and again, they have constantly spun webs around the batsmen. The duo made Australian batsmen dance to their tunes four years ago, at home, as they registered a historic whitewash in 2013.
The fielding unit also is quite outstanding, with some sensational fielders like Jadeja, Kohli, Rahane, etc. Even Saha has proved his effectiveness and accuracy behind the stumps.
The form of KL Rahul at the top order has been an issue for some time now. India have tried a number of opening combinations in the last year and seems like that position is still in jeopardy.
India’s fast bowlers have always remained an area of concern. In the absence of spearhead Mohammed Shami, it falls upon Ishant Sharma to lead the bowling attack.
Umesh Yadav has for a long time struggled to make his place in the team permanent. His lengths have been inconsistent and he has, at times, leaked runs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed some mettle in the England series but will need the backing of other bowlers to deliver.
Hardik Pandya can bowl a few overs but you would not want to be in a position where you have to rely on him to take wickets. This is especially important considering the fact that the Aussies boast of batting powerhouses like David Warner & Steve Smith in their lineup.
Kuldeep Yadav hasn't been exposed to the international arena, though he has continuously impressed in the domestic circuit. Abhinav Mukund has come back into the scene after a long time and it remains to be seen if he gets a chance.
As this is the last Test assignment of the season for the No.1 ranked team, the series against Australia serves as the perfect opportunity for India to end this very successful season in the most spectacular fashion.
With Rohit Sharma and Karun Nair on the sidelines, Rahul and Rahane would be raring to make a statement in the team’s starting XI. Murali Vijay was noteworthy against Bangladesh, but this series will be the real test for him to prove his audacity with the bat.
Recent Australian teams have always been found to be vulnerable against spin. Ashwin & Jadeja would be straining at the bit to take complete advantage of it. They have produced some stupendous performances in the subcontinent and would be raring to go. Jayant Yadav can also spring in a couple of surprises, as can Kuldeep Yadav, if he gets an opportunity.
While there have been some exceptional batting performances by different batsmen in the recent months, at times India has tended to be a little bit over reliant on Virat Kohli. It is worth remembering and repeating that Kohli is human, and might not turn up aces all the time.
If the tracks don't offer much turn, it can prove to be challenging for the Ashwin-Jadeja duo. Any flaws or loose bowling against the likes of Warner and Smith will result in a solid reply if either of them are in a mood to bat long and hard.
One more factor that may give Australia something to cheer about is that 3 out of the 4 matches are to be played at new venues. This might not completely give India as much of an edge even though they are playing at home.
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