India go into the 15th edition of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the prize at the end of an India-Australia Test series since 1996, as clear favourites, with the pink ball being the only factor looking to nullify the visitor’s advantage at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday morning of December 17, 2020.
Yes, it will be the first ever pink ball day/night Test between the two cricketing giants, and the fact that it will be Australia’s eighth and India’s second in this latest cricketing evolution, might work to the advantage of the hosts. The fact that Australia has also won each of those seven Tests will also play on the minds of Virat Kohli and his troupe.
Otherwise on pure cricketing merit, India has the clear edge. They certainly have a more accomplished and experienced middle order and the bowling attack of both sides also cancel each other out.
At least on paper, Chheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari, look better than Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head and Cameron Green.
That leaves the other three key Test positions of opener, wicketkeeper and bowling all-rounder to ponder upon. While India have chosen Wriddhiman Saha over Rishab Pant, which one feels is a more effective counter to the Aussie skipper Tim Paine at the Test level, the blooding of Green, a young and highly rated and successful first-class bowling all-rounder, keeps the Aussies ahead in that department.
Both teams have issues at the top, the hosts in particular, losing the swash-buckling David Warner and first-choice opener Will Pucowski in the lead up to injury. India to my mind have somewhat artificially created the ‘openers conundrum’ as Mayank Agarwal and Prithwi Shaw should have been the clear choices from get go, unless you wanted to have a backup keeper in the eleven and therefore wanted to pick K.L. Rahul. Team news suggests they have eventually gone with the obvious.
Gone are the days when the thought of playing in Australia would give India the jitters. India, in this decade, has clearly dominated the Border-Gavaskar winning four of the six played so far, including the last two, culminating with the historic first-ever series win in Australia last time around in 2018-19.
But Australia is always a proud fighting force in whites and in the baggy green and frontline left-arm quick Mitchell Starc’s bowling average of 19.23 and 42 wickets, in those seven day-nighters will be something that Kohli and his men should be wary of.
Kohli will also be wary of the host’s premiere Test spinner Nathan Lyon, who has dismissed him more times (seven) than any other Test bowler and has won many a Test match against India, which by itself bears testimony to Lyon’s class.
In the last series, where India returned successful, lead spinner R. Ashwin had bagged a crucial six wickets in the first Test in a winning cause. India will need Ashwin to be on the top of his game again, if they want to repeat their 2018-19 performance.
For the Aussies, Steve Smith would want to make-up for missing out last time around due to suspension and given his record against India (7 tons in 10 Tests), his will be the biggest scalp for the Indian bowlers throughout the series.
Time for speculations over team choices, player availability et. all are over. It’s time for Test cricket now- the original, purest and toughest format of the game between two of the world’s greatest cricketing nations. May the best team win!