India’s long-awaited tour of Australia will get underway from 27 November and will feature three ODIs, three T20Is, and four Tests. The Test series has already generated some interest, more so because India won their maiden series in Australia the last time they toured there, in 2018-19. They still hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and Australia will want to wrestle it back.
Test squad: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav.
Kohli (692 runs at 86.50, 2014-15), Pujara (521 at 74.42, 2018-19), and Pant (350 at 58.33, 2018-19) have all had one outstanding series in Australia. All three average over fifty there, while Rahane has 44. Thrown to the wolves on his Test debut in Melbourne last time, Mayank Agarwal had impressed as well.
If Pant’s sample size seems small, it must be remembered that he scored a minimum of 25 runs in each of the seven innings he batted there last time. It is important that he plays, even if as a specialist batsman.
Bumrah and Shami were both in excellent form last time. While India will miss Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav’s ability to bowl quick over long spells may make up for it. India also have their best three spinners in the format.
Ishant’s injury is a big blow. Since 2014, he has been one of the premier fast bowlers – not only in India but across the world – and he would definitely have been a threat. India may miss Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the day-night Test as well. Siraj and Saini are excellent bowlers, but they have not played a lot of first-class cricket (Siraj 36 matches in five years, Saini 45 in seven).
Pujara and Vihari, the Test specialists who are not part of the ongoing IPL, are unlikely to get serious match practice, especially on hard, bouncy pitches, ahead of the Test series.
India hosted a day-night Test last year at Eden Gardens, but the match against Bangladesh had turned out to be a one-sided affair. Australia in Adelaide will be another proposition.
But the main threat is going to be Australia’s reinforced batting line-up. India’s 2018-19 win had come in the absence of Steven Smith and David Warner, while Marnus Labuschagne had not evolved into the run-glutton that he is now. All that will change.
Kohli and Pujara, Shami, and Bumrah. Especially Bumrah. It is important that he does not lose fitness, especially because the Tests will be played after the limited-overs matches.
ODI squad: Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul (vc and wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Kohli has a superb ODI record in Australia (1,154 runs at 50.17, strike rate 88), while Dhawan (699, 38.83, 88) has been decent as well.
Shami’s superb record (18 wickets at 25.22, economy 4.83) may turn out to be decisive as well, while Chahal (10-0-42-6 in his only ODI there) will want to pick up from where he had left.
Rohit (1,328 runs at 53.12, strike rate 91) has a better record than even Kohli in Australia. His injury has been a major setback. Rahul, likely to open with Dhawan, will also be the only wicketkeeper in the squad – which means India will have to play him irrespective of form.
Bumrah, India’s spearhead, has played only one ODI in Australia, and that was almost five years ago. Apart from Shami and Jadeja (who has not really impressed there), the others have little experience of bowling in Australia.
The other factor, of course – and this has been true for some time – is that none of the Indian batsmen can bowl, even if for a spell of three or four overs. An injury to a specialist bowler will invariably expose this.
Kohli needs to deliver if India have to do well. His experience as well as performance on Australian soil make him the most important member of the squad.
T20I squad: Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul (vc and wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Varun Chakravarthy.
The Indians – who lacked practice ahead of the IPL – had looked jaded when the tournament got underway. However, they settled down as it progressed, and most of them look in touch a month into the tournament.
Dhawan’s newfound prowess in the format has been enough to earn him a slot at the top. Hardik’s fitness, a perennial concern, may hold key to India’s batting success this time.
The bowling, built mostly based on IPL performance, looks reasonably strong. Despite Bumrah’s presence, Shami’s rise as a T20 bowler and Chakravarthy’s variations may hold key to India’s success.
The conditions in Australia will be significantly different from what the Indians are facing in the UAE. But their main problem will probably be a batting order where very few have actually scored quickly in this edition.
India have probably not picked their best squad, as a closer look will reveal the following:
- Hardik and Jadeja – the two quickest scorers of this edition – are unlikely to bat in the top five
- Among the next two, Samson has played only four T20Is and Mayank none
- Dhawan’s career T20I numbers do not quite match his superb strike rate in this edition
- Rahul, Kohli, Iyer, and Pandey have all got runs, but at a strike rate of 132 or lower
While the selectors have shown boldness by picking Chakravarthy, Tewatia’s omission is baffling. Among Indians, only Rahul (222.5) has more points than Tewatia (203.5) in this season’s race for the IPL MVP.
Varun Chakravarthy was playing TNPL in 2018. Picked at forty-two times his base price in the 2019 IPL, he played just one forgettable match before getting injured. He finally found his mojo this time, for Kolkata Knight Riders. Given his astronomical rise, if he is not a likely star, who is?
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