The much awaited and one of the most talked about test series amongst cricket fraternity is set to commence on 17th December. Since 1996, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has been contested for 14 times in which India have won it 8 times and Australia 5. However on Australian soil, the home team have won it 4 out of 6 times with India having a solitary win in the 18-19 series under Kohli. For the first time, the series will feature a day-night test. The first test at Adelaide will be India’s first taste of pink ball on a foreign soil while Australia holds an impeccable 7-0 record in day night tests at home.
India declare the playing XI
Apart from a few one-sided series, the Border-Gavaskar series has always been quite competitive. It’s played as much on the field as off it with all the strategies and banters in media. India have started the mind games on a positive note by declaring their playing eleven a day in advance.
The much discussed opening slot has not been tinkered with as Indian team has shown faith in Shaw to come good in unison with Mayank. The ever solid middle order has no surprises with Pujara, Kohli, Rahane and Vihari. Unlike last tour to Australia, Saha will don the keeping gloves being better skilled for the job. Ashwin has been trusted to repeat his bowling figures from last tour and get those handy runs down the order. The pace battery consists of Shami, Bumrah and Umesh.
India would be hoping that the absence of Ishant Sharma for the first time since 2008 tour, would not affect their bowling attack. Indian bowlers had a nice run against the Aussies the last time. However they were bowling at a Smith-less Australian batting order with an inexperienced Marnus Labuschagne. It will be an uphill task this time but Indian bowlers must have prepared accordingly given they are presently one of the best fast bowling attacks around the world. One of the most lethal attack too, literally, as they have forced 4 concussion substitutes, two each against West Indies and Bangladesh. Even in the practice matches, there were two victims of bouncers- one of them was Will Pucovski who was certain to open for Australia in the absence of Warner, prior to his injury.
India’s Playing XI:
Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Australia Probable XI: Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green(if fit)/Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c,wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
The absence of David Warner and lack of form of Joe Burns have forced Australia to give their opening combination a good thought. Ricky Ponting reckons that Matthew Wade should be promoted to open the innings with Joe Burns as Burns has shown the capability of playing longer innings in the past. The combination of Smith and his shadow Labuschagne is the biggest strength of Austrlian batting side. Their performance holds the key for Australia’s success in taking the trophy back from Indians. The duo reside at the top of test rankings being separated by Kohli and Williamson.
They will have the support of Head and Green at 5 & 6. Green’s inclusion is subject to his fitness. He showed signs of concussion after being hit on right temple by Bumrah’s drive off his own bowling. The all-rounder has scored a century in the first warm up match against India. Captain Tim Paine will be the obvious choice behind the wicket. Spin department will be looked after by the ‘GOAT’ Nathan Lyon who has a very good record at Adelaide. The pace trio should consist of Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc. They will be tough to handle especially with the pink ball under lights.
A close contest on cards
The stellar team line ups suggest that we are in for a treat at Adelaide. This being the only test that Virat will play, the Indian team will try their best to start on a winning note and set the tone for the rest of the series. However the only thing more dangerous than a tiger is an injured one. Australia would be quite eager to settle the scores after losing the trophy for the first time at home last time. However they were a team under-construction after the sandpaper-gate without the likes of Smith and Warner. This time they have a much balanced and settled side and in the absence of Kohli have a great chance to take the Trophy back.
The World Test Championship and ICC Test team rankings will be at stake too with Australia leading India in both the tables.