India vs Australia Preview
India take on Australia in December and the New Year with the Indians looking to win their first ever series in Australia. It goes without saying that Australia will be weakened, but in my opinion they will still start as favourites, just that the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner will have evened the scales.
Australia have called up Marcus Harris, the ‘in-form’ batsman, ahead of Matthew Renshaw. One of the main reasons why teams like England and Australia cannot find two test quality openers is because of the tendency to go with the ‘in-form’ batsman, (i.e. the batsman who makes the most runs in the one month before the test starts). If I went to Australia and got a double hundred in the Shield, I too would have a call-up to the Australian national side, it is almost irrelevant what I have or haven’t done beforehand.
While this policy works reasonably well for middle order batsmen, it very rarely works for openers. Wherever you are in the world, opinion the innings is always the toughest job in red ball cricket. Even if you are a world beater in opening, there will be times where you make low scores because you just get a really good ball, but that does not mean that someone who gets a double hundred in the same game is suddenly a better batsman. Matthew Renshaw did exceedingly well when Australia visited India and as well as huge potential, there was quality there as well. However, even though Australia have needed an opener to support Warner for some time, and without Warner they need two openers, they have still refused to go to Renshaw and instead picked the ‘in-form’ man. Whether this will work out for them remains to be seen. Harris and Finch are largely untried at this test level and should India find movement with the new ball, a lot of pressure could be placed on the trio of Khawaja, Handscomb and Shaun Marsh in the middle order. There will be an impetus on Khawaja and Marsh, being the most experienced members of the batting lineup to get a majority of the runs for Australia, as well as protecting Head and Paine down the order.
However, due to the absence of Mitchell Marsh, if India can bat long through Vijay and Pujara then there will be quite a large workload on the coveted 4 man attack that the Australians have gone with.
India have stuck with KL Rahul, a good decision since he started his career in Australia and did well when he started off in his test career. It will be a good place for him to come over and just find his timing again. When Rahul is on form, there aren’t many batsmen in India who are better to watch but since his fantastic home season in 2016/17 and his IPL exploits in 2017 and 2018, he just hasn’t been able to find his feet as a test opener again. Murali Vijay has been given a call-up to the side after Shaw’s injury and India need to apply the same formula they do when they win at home in order to win in Australia, Vijay and Pujara bat long and Kohli, Rahane and their number 6 bat aggressively down the order. India have also gone for a 4 man attack in the absence of Hardik Pandya. Pandya is a big miss because out of England, South Africa and Australia, if there is one place where you can afford to play a genuine all rounder and weaken the batting a little it is Australia. Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma do not have the greatest records in Australia but they are all improved bowlers and it remains to be seen whether the Australian batsmen are good enough to punish the inevitable bad balls that they will get from Shami and possibly Ashwin. There isn’t much in the pitches in Australia, and it will take a special effort from the Indians lead by Jasprit Bumrah to take the 20 wickets needed to win a test.
Rohit Sharma has all of the qualities to succeed in Australia, but he has shown time and again that he simply doesn’t make the big scores required from a test batsman. Hanuma Vihari gives an off-spinning option (similar to Travis Head) but also looked compact in England and had a successful first tour there.
Overall, the series will come down to how much the Australian batting lineup can apply themselves against the Indians and how much the India batting can survive against the Australian bowling. The Australian bowling are a lot more likely to cause a lot more problems than the Indians (in these Australian conditions) but it remains to be seen how both batting line ups can cope under the pressure. Whichever batting lineup comes out on top will probably win the series. India gifted South Africa and England the first test in the respective series but with the flatter pitches of Australia, the possibility of a draw is a lot higher than in England. This will mean that it is absolutely imperative that India start well in Australia and not lose the first test, as it would be a long way back from there. India seem to have a settled side this time however, with no talk of dropping Pujara or Rahane, and they have played a warm up game where batsmen have got used to conditions (as well as an India A tour to New Zealand) so the Indians have done a lot right in preparation for this series, but I simply think that as the series goes on, the Australian bowling will come to light a lot more than the Indian bowling, but if India win the first test then it could be a very difficult series for Australia’s batsmen.
I feel as if whoever will win the first test will win the series, and if it is a draw then I feel the Australians may eventually come out on top being the home side (their familiarity will always push a 50-50 contest in their favour as we saw numerous times in South Africa and England). It promises to be a very very close series and if it is half as entertaining as the last Border-Gavaskar Trophy then we are in for an awesome series. Much will depend on Jaspri Bumrah and Virat Kohli’s success, and India will have to dominate tests to win them which I feel is very difficult to do in Australia, so I’m going for a narrow Australian series win.
Series Prediction : Adelaide: Australia , Perth : India , Melbourne : Australia , Sydney : Draw Australia 2-1 India.
Expected Indian Lineup : 1. KL Rahul , 2. Murali Vijay , 3. Cheteshwar Pujara , 4. Virat Kohli (c) , 5. Ajinkya Rahane (vc) , 6. Hanuma Vihari , 7. Rishabh Pant (wk) , 8. Ravi Ashwin , 9. Ishant Sharma , 10. Mohammed Shami , 11. Jasprit Bumrah
Expected Australian Lineup : 1. Marcus Harris , 2. Aaron Finch , 3. Usman Khawaja , 4. Shaun Marsh , 5. Peter Handscomb , 6. Travis Head , 7. Tim Paine (wk) (c) , 8. Patrick Cummins , 9. Mitchell Starc , 10. Nathan Lyon , 11. Josh Hazlewood