by Elton Gomes
India will look to start their campaign in Australia on a positive note, eyeing a maiden Test series win Down Under. India will be taking on Australia in the opening Test match of the four match series at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday, December 6.
The No. 1-ranked Indian Test team will be boosted by some good performances at home. They thrashed West Indies, but were shocked by hosts Australia in the recently concluded Twenty20 International series. On the other hand, fifth-ranked Australia had a torrid year due to controversies and poor outings.
India’s overseas record is not that solid as they lost a Test series in South Africa towards the end of last year. They also lost to England in a five-Test series away from home in the middle of 2018.
To add to their problems, the Indian team will be without promising opener Prithvi Shaw after he suffered an injury during a warm up game. India will have to come up with something different to put up a strong challenge.
Team India have decided to wait until the start of the first Test at the Adelaide Oval to announce their playing XI. The hosts instead announced a 12-man squad in the wake of skipper Virat Kohli addressing the media in Adelaide
Hanuma Vihari and Rohit Sharma will be competing for one spot. Vihari, a batting all-rounder, made his Test debut in The Oval Test this year, making a first-innings 56 and taking 3/37 with the ball. Sharma played the last of his 25 Tests against South Africa in January this year, but his experience will be useful. Sharma has toured Australia before, averaging 28.83 in six innings with one half-century in 2014-15.
Australia sprang a surprise by axing all-rounder Mitch Marsh on Wednesday for the first Test. Usman Khawaja’s return has been confirmed despite his brother’s arrest.
Batsmen Travis Head and Peter Handscomb were preferred to Marsh, piling more pressure on the bowlers, while Marcus Harris will make his debut as opener.
Captain Tim Paine said Marsh’s omission was due to a lack of consistency and that the all-rounder would benefit from returning to county cricket to find form again.
“Mitch Marsh has not been as consistent as he would like and we would like,” Paine said at his pre-match press conference, as per an NDTV report.
“We know the talent that Mitch has and we know that most likely at some stage in this series we will need him. We are taking the opportunity at the moment to go back and play a Shield game and get some cricket under belt,” the Australian captain said.
Murali Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah have been named in India’s 12-man squad.
Australia’s playing XI includes Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Tim Paine (C), Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc.
India look for first series win in Australia
Much of the focus for India has been whether they can register their first win in Australia. Captain Virat Kohli has been in remarkable form and poses a formidable threat for the Australian bowling coupled with his aggression on the field. But, for many, a series win will add to his legacy.
Former Australia vice-captain Shane Watson said India, the world’s top-ranked Test team, will find it difficult to beat Australia in their backyard, even though the home team has been struggling and will miss top batsmen.
“It is India’s best chance of winning in Australia especially because Steve Smith and David Warner are missing, but it is still going to be incredibly hard for India to win,” said Watson, Hindustan Times reported.
“Even though they have an incredible batting line-up and their bowlers are probably as good as (any) fast bowling attack coming to Australia. But with the wickets (being) the way they are — pace and bounce — and, obviously, Australia are accustomed to playing at home,” he added.
The Australian vice-captain supported India’s batsmen, under pressure for their poor show in England and South Africa, to come good in the series.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius