IND v AUS 1st Test, Preview: India aim total domination over skeptical Aussies
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After thoroughly outplaying the touring New Zealand, England, and Bangladesh sides, Team India now gears up for the big Australian challenge. The action starts at the MCA Stadium in Pune, which is incidentally hosting its debut Test match. The behaviour of the pitch remains uncertain and so does the visiting side.
The Aussies will be skeptical coming into the game being constantly torn between playing their natural aggressive game and adapting to the situation. Their past record in the Indian conditions has not been great. The last time they beat India in a Test series on Indian soil was back in 2004. Their most recent visit in the 2013 season saw them being whitewashed by the MS Dhoni-led side 4-0.
Now, the leadership role in the host camp has changed. But the team’s form and spirit have only got a shade better. India have been unbeaten in their last 20 Tests at home with their previous defeat coming back in 2012 against England at Kolkata.
Well, facts aside, the series promises to be a closely contested one with the players being in supreme touch. For the skeptical visitors, there lies a hidden bonus too. If they manage to beat India 3-0 or 4-0, they will regain the top spot in the Test rankings. Having said that, one needs to admit it is a far cry given the form of Virat Kohli’s side.
Going into the series, the hosts are expected to call the shots on most occasions. The players are all fit and the side that faced Bangladesh in the recent fixture could well be retained for the match. The only change that the team might opt for is the inclusion of Jayant Yadav.
The nature of the Pune track has been spin friendly in the domestic longer formats. Hence, the addition of Jayant Yadav as the third spinner could well be a thoughtful idea. Moreover, even skipper Virat Kohli stressed on the fact that the track remains slow and low at Pune. This only confirms the return of Jayant in the frame. KL Rahul, despite his struggling form, retains his place in the side.
Karun Nair, who scored a triple ton in his previous innings, might still not make it to the playing eleven. Ajinkya Rahane played decently well in the Bangladesh Test to retain his spot in the lineup. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav would be the two pacers in the lineup.
Australia have a tougher task at hand while setting their permutations for the match. They have many players in the lineup who will play in the Indian conditions for the first time. Opener Matt Renshaw, middle order batsman Peter Handscomb, bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Steve O’Keefe will be trying their hands on the tricky surfaces for the first time.
Shaun Marsh remains to be the wildcard for the Aussies as he was one of the few successful batsmen for them during the dismal Test series against Sri Lanka last year. He is most likely to fit in the team at the expense of Usman Khawaja. Mitchell Marsh could miss out on the game given the slow nature of the wicket.
The slowness might tempt the visitors to field a spin bowling all-rounder rather than a pace bowling all-rounder like Mitchell Marsh. In this case, Glenn Maxwell could be the beneficiary. Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe look like the settled spinners in the side and Mitchell Swepson might have to wait a little longer for his turn on the tour.
KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Steven Smith (C), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc, Steve O’Keefe, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
Venue: MCA Stadium, Pune
Time: 0930 (local) 0400 (GMT)
Pitch Verdict: On the slower side
1. MCA Stadium, Pune will become the 25th Test venue in India.
2. In a very unusual situation, Australia are playing two different teams on consecutive days. They played Sri Lanka on February 22 and will take on India on February 23. Back in 1930, England played two Tests on the same day – one against New Zealand and second against West Indies.
3. In the last four Tests against India, Steve Smith has scored centuries in each of them.
4. Mitchell Starc has 143 Test wickets in 34 Tests to his name. 7 more wickets will make him the joint second fastest left armer to 150 scalps after Bill Johnson (35 Tests) and Mitchell Johnson (34 Tests).
5. Australia last won a series in India in 2004. In the recent times, they lost their previous away Test series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan (in UAE) and India.