October 16 2018
Except for Virat Kohli’s heroic performances, there isn’t much to remember the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy fondly by for India. The Men In Blue were beaten in the first two matches and the next two ended in tame draws which meant Australia triumphed 2-0 in a series which also saw the retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni from Test cricket.
Three years on, as India prepare for another trip Down Under, things look a lot more promising for Kohli and Co. Here’s why!
The West Indies series cannot be considered as the ideal preparation for a tour as taxing as Australia but one thing that came to the fore for India is that the two highest scorers in the two match series were an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old. The way Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant went about their batting bodes well for India and add to that the unmatched consistency of Kohli and the experience of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara and India really have something to be confident about.
While not as prolific as Kohli, Rahane too had a memorable series in Australia last time around and he will be preparing for an encore. The only concern in terms of batting for India is the form of opener KL Rahul but he was going through a similar patch when he notched up 149 against England at the Oval.
Unlike on the turning tracks of India, Australian pitches will require four genuine pacers and India finally seem to have a quartet in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. While the first three were rested for the Windies series, Yadav picked up the first ten-for by an Indian pacer in India since Javagal Srinath in 1999. Along with them, Ravichandran Ashwin will be the spinner in chief and will also look to chip in with the bat.
Pant behind the stumps is a work in progress and having struggled with the moving ball in England, he has his task cut out on the fast pitches of Australia but India’s all-around fielding is as good as any other Test playing nation.
What is promising for India however is that Australia are not the same intimidating outfit they used to be. While Mitchell Starc and Co. provide a threat with the ball, their batting is not as good as it used to be. Especially with Steve Smith and David Warner not playing, Australia will struggle for runs and the Indian pace attack can get on top of them. Usman Khawaja is the batting mainstay of Australia at the moment and India will want to get the better of him.
Long story short, if there ever has been a good time for India to tour Australia, it is right now. If everything goes according to plan and India do succeed in registering a memorable series win Down Under, what could be better to bolster the team’s confidence with the 2019 World Cup in England just around the corner?