Next week the first Test between kicks off in Pune. The contest will be dramatic. The war of words strident and the crowds big and loud. Can Australia compete?
India’s form is irresistible. They are undefeated in 18 consecutive Tests. Most were at home. They just beat Bangladesh 1-0 in a solitary Test and England 4-0 across five Tests.
The England series was compelling for Australian fans. England posted 400 and 500+ totals on three occasions. In the first Test they had India on the back foot, but India held on for a narrow draw.
India then found rhythm and England were thrashed. Despite having five of the series’ top ten run scorers England were routed by superior batting. Virat Kohli scored 655 runs at an average of 109. India passed 400 five times, their biggest total was declared at 7/759.
Meanwhile, Australia’s batting has been a widely publicised problem. Two recent series losses to Sri Lanka and South Africa were papered over by a resurgence against Pakistan. New faces adorned the top order. Handscomb and Renshaw provide hope. But India away is next level. Difficult conditions, big crowds, lots of noise, falling wickets, men around the bat, blunt words and pressure to hold on.
Can Australia avoid past mistakes? The common phrase ‘play your natural game’ is a pitfall. It is bandied about too often. It’s a license to throw your wicket away in difficult circumstances. Chase a wide one in the hope you’ll get a few, before they get you.
Steve Smith has forecast change. Aggression is not the only tactic. Counter-attack has often failed. Australia’s batsmen need to be prepared to go to war in the dusty trenches. For hours, even days.
For Australia, the question isn’t how do we take 20 wickets? But rather, how do we score 600 every time we bat. Warner’s quick 100s need to be converted into bigger, longer scores. The top order must bat long and wear down India’s bowlers, who won’t be intimidated by one-off rapid scoring.
Ashwin and Jadeja need to be stopped. India’s two top spinners spun webs around England. Ashwin bowled 300 overs and took 28 wickets at 30. Jadeja bowled 290 overs and took 26 wickets at 25 in five Tests.
It was all about spin. The leading fast-medium bowler on the England tour was India’s Shami. He took just 10 wickets.Each of England’s pace bowlers took fewer than 8 wickets across the series.
The point here is spin. It’s all about spin. And batting big. Really big. Starc and Hazlewood will play a role. But Lyon, O’Keefe, Agar and Swepson will be important. But nothing is more important than runs and Australia will be tempted to cram as many batsmen into its XI as possible.
Enjoy the ride, this series will be awesome. Cricket Froth will be there for fourth Test in Dharamshala. So stay tuned for up-close analysis.
This article first appeared on cricketfroth.com