Australia, India lock horns in Adelaide

This is probably India’s best chance to win their first Test series on Australian soil. Virat Kohli’s men have experience on their side. Their batsmen have the momentum having spent enough time down under and will fancy their chances heading into this massive four match Test series.

While Australia have announced their playing XI, India have named their preferred XII for the Adelaide Test. We take a deep look at what will be on offer in this highly anticipated series opener.

From the Indian dressing room:

After going down in South Africa and England to rather more competitive teams, India will want to start 2019 with a clinical showing against the Kangaroos in their own backyard. The Indian batsmen will also find it easy considering that the new ball would not swing as much as it did in England.

Prithvi Shaw’s injury has meant that India will open with KL Rahul and a returning Murali Vijay. Both have got a point to prove. Rahul, who struck a classy hundred in the last Test in England had a flop show against the Windies at home. Murali Vijay seized his opportunity with a sublime ton in the warm-up game. He has mentioned the Australian conditions suiting his gameplay which speaks volumes about the confidence he carries heading into the Adelaide Test.

Cheteshwar Pujara at number three and Virat Kohli at number four hold key for India. Majority of India’s success depends on how these two perform overseas. While all the eyes will be on Virat Kohli and the agenda behind not letting him score freely, Pujara will have a bright chance of avoiding centre stage and quietly scoring runs.

Ajinkya Rahane’s solidarity at number five will prove critical too. The Indian vice-captain will be expected to be among runs on Australian tracks that suit his style of play.

The number six spot still remains a mystery with Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari both in contention for it. Rohit Sharma returns to the side after being left out of the team that lost 4-1 to England. Sharma, known for his mastery on the backfoot, will be a vital cog in counter-attacking the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Rishabh Pant hasn’t tasted much success in the limited overs format but once he wears the whites and trusts his instincts, he becomes a key aspect of India’s lower middle order.

India will head into the first Test with a four-bowlers attack comprising of a specialist spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin ahead of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma will lead the fast bowling unit with the company of the third seamer in Mohammad Shami. India’s pace battery, in the recent past, has shown the capability to pick 20 opposition wickets which is exciting for any Indian cricket fan.

Overall, the visitors will be under pressure but should start as favourites at the Adelaide Oval.

From the Australian dressing room:

Imagine David Warner and Steve Smith a part of this side. Two run-machines including one leader who makes an impact wherever he plays. The home side, minus them, has gone under a massive turmoil. Consistency has been a major issue with their batting but Usman Khawaja displayed what he is capable of against Pakistan in their last completed Test series giving them a ray of hope.

Australia will hand Marcus Harris with his first-ever baggy green and he will open in the company of Aaron Finch who will also want to cement his spot considering the form that Matt Renshaw is in.

Usman Khawaja at number three will have a huge task up his sleeve. Australia’s hopes will rely heavily upon him and Shaun Marsh who has had a brilliant run in the Sheffield Shield leading up to the Tests.

Much will be expected of local boy Travis Head too when he takes guard in familiar conditions. Head has managed only 122 runs from his four outings so far but the selectors have shown faith in him to prosper in the middle order.

Apart from him, Peter Handscomb will aim to return with a bang and will have the company of skipper Tim Paine to share the load of the lower middle order.

Australia’s pace triplet of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will hold key to their success. India should expect a barrage of short stuff from Starc and Cummins. Nathan Lyon, their premier spinner, will also play a key part in Adelaide. India has had a history of throwing wickets away to spinners despite being the best against them.

The first Test starts on Thursday at 5.30 AM IST.