India kicked-off their tour of Australia on a poor note, going down 1-2 in the three-match ODI series. While the batting was good, crossing 300 in all three matches, the bowling let the team down, failing to rein in the Aussie big-hitters. The tension is now building up as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy approaches. The Test series will kick-off with the Day-Night Test at Adelaide, which starts on December 17. While India registered a historic 2-1 triumph in 2018-19, the Aussies will start as favourites in the upcoming series. As the teams prepare for the massive challenge, here’s a look at five players to watch out for in the Test series.
1. Steve Smith
There is something about the Indian attack that just seems to get the best out of Steve Smith. Following an erratic IPL 2020, he roared back to form with consecutive hundreds against India in the first two ODIs. However, the sterner ‘Test’ for Indian bowlers is yet to begin. Smith has an unbelievable record against the Indians in the longer format of the game. In 10 Tests against India, he has amassed 1429 runs with seven hundreds at an exceptional average 84.05. In Australia, he has done even better. In four Tests during the 2014-15 series, he smashed 769 runs at a stupendous average of 128.16 with four tons. For India to harbour hopes of winning the series, they will somehow have to find a way past Smith. The question is, do they have a plan in place?
2. Cheteshwar Pujara
When India trumped Australia in 2018-19, Cheteshwar Pujara was their standout performer with the bat. The Saurashtra batsman accumulated 521 runs in four Tests (7 innings) at a wonderful average of 74.42 average with three hundreds. Pujara batted on and on, Test after Test, and ended up facing a mammoth 1258 deliveries across the four matches, a massive achievement in itself. Kicking off the series with 123 and 71 at Adelaide, he went on to register scores of 106 and 193 in the third and fourth Test respectively. Pujara’s fantastic effort came against an Aussie bowling line-up consisting Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon. In Virat Kohli’s absence, he will have to lift his game again.
3. Nathan Lyon
India may be known as great players of spin traditionally, but that tag has been slipping away gradually over the last decade. And, one of the prime reasons for the same has been Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s success against India. The cunning 33-year-old has ripped apart the Indians more than once. In 18 matches, Lyon has claimed 85 wickets at an average of 32.60. The striking aspect here is that Lyon has as many as seven five-wicket hauls in Tests against India. Of the 85 scalps, 51 have come in Australia in 11 matches. He famously bowled Australia to victory with 12 wickets at Adelaide in 2014-15. At Perth in 2018-19, he was again the game changer with eight scalps.
4. Mohammed Shami
Jasprit Bumrah was among the most effective bowlers for India Down Under back in 2018-19. However, he hasn’t been the same bowler since. Even as India would want him to lift his game for the Test series, they would be hopeful of Mohammed Shami putting up a good show. Over the last couple of seasons, Shami has emerged as India’s foremost bowler across formats, putting behind all his personal problems. At the start of the innings, Shami is capable of moving the ball around at pace. And, with the old ball, he is emerging as one of the greatest exponents of reverse swing from the current generation.
5. Ajinkya Rahane
In Virat Kohli’s absence, Ajinkya Rahane is all set to captain India in the last three Tests in Australia. But, Rahane will have to lead with the bat Down Under. India’s most versatile overseas batsman at one point of time, Rahane hasn’t quite been at his peak over the last few seasons. He has gradually been rediscovering his touch over the last year. However, in Australia, Rahane will have no scope to fail. Minus, Kohli, him and Pujara will have to do the bulk of the scoring. Rahane has experience and expertise. But, can he deliver with India’s back against the wall?