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Posted at: Dec 6, 2018, 1:56 AM; last updated: Dec 6, 2018, 1:56 AM (IST)

It’s on!

Confident India look to shed poor travellers’ tag and win their first series ever in Australia in seven decades
It’s on!
Australia captain Tim Paine and India skipper Virat Kohli pose with the Border Gavaskar Trophy in Adelaide on Wednesday. AFP

Adelaide, december 5

With Australian cricket still reeling from the wrecking ball that was the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, India appear to have been handed a golden opportunity to secure a first Test series triumph Down Under over the next month. Winning on Australia’s sun-baked tracks is still among the toughest propositions in cricket, however, so Virat Kohli’s team will have to be at their best with both bat and ball to forge the breakthrough even given the propitious circumstances. Kohli leads a side bristling with brilliant batting talent, not least his own, but that has also been true of many of the 11 previous Indian touring parties that have left Australia empty-handed over the last 70 years.

That India have won just five of the 44 Tests over those seven decades is indicative of the scale of the task Kohli faces if he is to inscribe his name in the honour roll marked “great Test captains”. 

The man who would have been Kohli’s opposite number, and who the Indian recently replaced as the top-ranked batsman in the world, will not face so much as a single delivery during the series, which starts here tomorrow. 

Steve Smith remains sidelined from international cricket along with David Warner by the ban he received for his part in the infamous events in South Africa in March, when the ball-tampering scandal rocked the Australian game to its foundations. The loss of two of the finest batsmen in the world would gut any batting order and Australia have indeed shown the brittleness that comes with inexperience and lack of confidence over their last few international outings.

Tim Paine, selected to replace Smith as captain more for his character than for his batting and glovework behind the stumps, faces the task of redefining the Australian style without the verbal aggression that had become its trademark.

No deference

His efforts are almost certain to be sorely tested as recent series against India have often been fractious, from the “Monkeygate” affair of 2008 to the row over Smith looking to the team dressing room for advice on reviewing decisions.

It was Kohli who called Smith out on the latter matter in India about two years ago and the 30-year-old has made it eminently clear he is not cut from the same cloth as the deferential Indian captains of yesteryear. That assertiveness could end up exposing him to the worst excesses of the Australian media, whose playfulness has been known to develop a vicious streak if a home triumph is threatened.

For all those factors, however, it is likely that the series will be decided not by fluent strokeplay, or even media banter, but by the men whose job it is to knock wickets over. Recent history shows that it is bowling — particularly of the pace variety —  that wins Tests in Australia. — Reuters


Captain’s corner

Lines won’t be crossed but players can’t be bereft of emotions 

I don’t see stuff happening, which has happened in the past where both teams have crossed the line. But still it’s a competitive sport at the end of the day, and it’s international cricket. We don’t expect guys to just come, bowl and walk back

Obviously, there are going to be times when you have to put the batsmen under pressure. Not necessarily crossing the line, but just get into their heads which you expect from any side in the world, not just Australia. It’s going to be there, but it’s not going to happen at the level which has happened in the past, where both teams have lost control

Love affair with Adelaide    

I love coming to this ground, the city in general. I really enjoy the city, I don’t know what the connection is, but I just feel really good here. Not to say that the performances are always guaranteed in a certain place but yes, coming to Adelaide I feel different from places that I have gone to in the world 

It happens to every cricketer, they have a favourite ground away from home. For me, Adelaide has always been special, because I scored my first Test ton here. So, from then on the connection started

Kohli @adelaide

Tests: 4 innings, 394 runs, 3 hundreds 

ODIs: 3 innings, 140 runs (1 hundred) 

T20Is: 1 innings, 90 runs 


India in Oz since 1990s: 5 losses, 1 draw

India toured Australia twice in 1980s, drawing both times — 1-1 in 1981, 0-0 in 1985-86. Since the 1990s, India have lost 5 series and drawn 1 there, twice suffering whitewashes!

1991-92

India were beaten 4-0 in the 5-match series, drawing only the Sydney Test. India lost at Brishane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. They were bowled under 200 twice, and passed 400 only once

1999-2000

A horror series for Sachin Tendulkar as captain, though he made 1 100 and 2 50s. India lost by 285 runs in Adelaide, by 180 runs in Melbourne, and an innings and 141 runs in Sydney

2003-04

India’s best result in this Millennium. Under Sourav Ganguly, India drew the first Test in Brisbane, won the second in Adelaide to go 1-0 up, but Australia fought back to make it 1-1 in Melbourne. In Sydney, Australia were under pressure but held on to a draw

2007-08

The Monkeygate series — India were bowled out for 196 and 161 at Melbourne to go 0-1 down, and it became 0-2 at Sydney after India collapsed in the second innings. At Perth, India bowled Australia out for 212 & 340 to win by 72 runs. The final Test was drawn

2011-12

Another horror tour. India lost 0-4, going down by an innings in two Tests, and by 298 and 122 runs in two other matches. In 4 out of 8 innings, India fell below 200, below 300 three other times, and touched 400 only once  

2014-15

Virat Kohli made 115 & 141 but India lost the first Test at Adelaide. India lost at Brisbane too. The last two Tests were drawn. MS Dhoni retired from Tests after the third match, and Kohli took over


Five reasons this is India’s best chance to win a series Down Under

No Smith-Warner

The two, currently serving a ban for ball-tampering, aggregated 1196 runs at 85.42 against India four years ago, making 38.4% of Australia’s runs in that series! Smith was Bradmanesque, with 769 runs at an average of 128.16. Warner’s contribution is very significant as he bludgeons and disheartens the bowlers, as he did in that series, scoring at a rate of 79.66 every 100 balls.

Pace Attack

Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah comprise probably the most potent bowling attack in Indian history. They’ve shown they’re capable of bowling out strong teams — this year, India’s pacers took all 20 wickets against South Africa at Johannesburg, and 19 against England in Nottingham. But they must be at their best against Australia, where even Sheffield Shield batsmen are tough to crack.

Leader Kohli

Virat Kohli has been at the peak of his batting since 2016 — he’s aggregated 1215, 1059, 1063 runs in three calendar years. In 8 away Tests this year, he’s made 879 runs at an average of 54.93, with 3 100s and 4 50s. He did very well in Australia on the last tour, with 692 runs at 86.50, with 4 100s. As a leader, he’s passionate and aggressive, qualities that should be useful in Australia.

Experienced Bats

Apart from Kohli, the Indian squad includes Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, three of whom have made 100s in Australia. Rohit Sharma, who has the game to score runs in Australia, is also there, though his highest in Australia is only 53. Hanuma Vihari, Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant are immensely talented batsmen who will be keen to make an impression.

Kuldeep Factor

Indian spinners have traditionally struggled in Australia — even Anil Kumble averages 37.73 there! Only 3 spinners have taken 10 or more wickets in a Test there, and India won only one of those matches. Only 5 Indian spinners have picked up 5 or more wickets in an innings Down Under. The odds are stacked against R Ashwin and Co. However, India are hoping that the uniqueness of Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav would prove to be the X-factor.

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