Apart from The Ashes, is there a more anticipated Test series in international cricket than Australia against India? Well, certainly not on this occasion, as this series has been dubbed ‘Australia v Virat Kohli’ by many fans and media pundits.
If this content had taken place this time last year, it would have been the Steve Smith against Kohli series, but as we all know, the Australian ball-tampering incident has put an end to the match-up that would have seen the two best batsmen in the world lead their sides head to head.
Instead, it will be a battle to see how Australia has recovered from such controversy and the knock-on effect it had on the national side. For India, it’s another big series after their 4-1 defeat away to England earlier this year.
That scoreline makes it sound like India were comprehensively beaten by Joe Root and co. However, two tests were decided by less than 61 runs and another two went to the final day.
Only the Test at Lord’s was comprehensively one-sided as the most successful seam-bowler of all time in terms of wickets-taken, James Anderson, thrived in ideal conditions.
India did have a two-match Test series against the West Indies in October but won both matches by 10 wickets, and an innings and 272 runs. Kohli’s side would not have learnt much if anything during that series. The important one is now, starting at the Adelaide Oval, one of the best cricketing grounds in the world.
The key man will be Kohli, and that is for both sides. He is undoubtedly the best batsmen in the world at the moment, as shown by the ICC Player Rankings, and Australia has made clear the dangers he presents with his MRF bat in hand.
For Australia, it will be how well the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood not only restrict him but what plans will they try to execute to get him out?
Without Australia’s best batsmen in Smith and David Warner, both still suspended, Australia has been lacking in the batting department.
Captain Tim Paine will be important in the middle order, he may have to play a role of solidifying any potential collapses but has also shown how impressive he can be, as shown with his defiant innings against Pakistan. In the second Test in the October series, Paine made 61 not out off 194 deliveries in 219 minutes as he played a key role in helping his side draw the match with just two wickets remaining.
Australia will play debutant Marcus Harris, with the Victorian batsmen set to open the batting with the tenacious Aaron Finch. India bowled well in England so the top-order of the Australian line-up will have to work hard for their runs, but many visiting sides struggle on those dry, fast Australian pitches.
With the ball in hand, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah will be key for India. Bumrah is one of the brightest bowlers in the world, but has had his injury issues recently and has never played in Australia before, finding consistency can be difficult.
Sharma was impressive in England, the pick of the Indian bowlers in terms of the threat he provided with his swing and seam. He averaged 24.27 in that series, but the worrying sign is his average in Australia – 62.15 with just 20 wickets at a strike-rate of 105.4.
Regardless of all the intrigue around history and stats, this is set to be an engaging Test series once again. It’s tough to pick, but the difference could really come down Kohli and his ability with the bat. For Australia, their quicks will be required to set up their new-look side with their pace, accuracy and the much talked about aggression.
First Test – Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, December 6-10, 2018.
Second Test – Perth Stadium, Perth, December 14-18.
Third Test – Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne 26-30.
Fourth Test – Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney 3-7, 2019.