Australia will embark on one of their toughest tours to India with the first of the 4-match Test series to start in Pune on 23 February 2017. The hosts start as favourites and their impeccable recent record at home is a proof of that.
India have a pretty settled middle order with Pujara, Kohli and Rahane forming the core of it. Even though the openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul have had a patchy form, the duo will start the innings for India.
Wriddhiman Saha has been in great form and will bat at No. 6 or No. 7 with Ashwin taking up the leftover spot. It is likely that India will go in with three spinners which means that Jayant Yadav will make the XI along with Jadeja.
Umesh Yadav has been bowling well and is likely to keep his place along with the experienced Ishant Sharma who would want to send a message to everyone with regards to his IPL snub. With the Pune pitch being dry, three spinners and two seamers seems to be the ideal combination for the hosts.
The last time Australia were in India, they were whitewashed 4-0 and that is what the hosts would like to repeat. Even though it is unlikely that India will present rank turners like Australia’s previous tour, great spinning options gives the hosts an obvious advantage.
Apart from Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s other three premium batsmen have a great record against the Australians. Kohli has dominated the Aussies quite severely and that is what will be expected of him this series as well.
Player To Watch Out For:
With records to the bowling, Ashwin has embarrassing stats against the visitors having picked up 21 wickets in 6 matches at an average of 54.71. The current World No. 1 spinner will be India’s trump card in the series.
Probable XI: 1. KL Rahul, 2. M Vijay, 3. Cheteshwar Pujara, 4. Virat Kohli (capt), 5. Ajinkya Rahane, 6. Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 7. R Ashwin, 8. Ravindra Jadeja, 9. Jayant Yadav, 10. Ishant Sharma, 11. Umesh Yadav.
The Australians will be eager to make the most of their underdogs tag this series and spring a surprise. The visitors under Steven Smith have recently found some form in the longest format but it wasn’t too long ago that they lost a home series against South Africa.
Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon will be the key for Australia in the bowling department. The left-arm lanky seamer had a great series in Sri Lanka last year which will give him a lot of confidence. Lyon has been among the top 3 off-spinners in the world in the last couple of years and Australia will rely a lot on him to provide timely breakthroughs.
With regards to their batting, David Warner and Steven Smith will be relied upon the most by the visitors. Warner’s experience in Indian conditions makes him the man to look out for.
Smith who is equally dangerous if not more, will hope a young batting lineup along with the injury-prone Shaun Marsh will do well in Indian conditions. They also have a lot of hopes from Peter Handscomb who is known to be a good player of spin.
Australia are likely to go with two frontline spinners and two seamers for the first Test in Pune. It is the fifth bowler conundrum which will give Australia’s team management a headache. Mitchell Marsh hasn’t been in good form but can bowl longer spells which the part time off-spinner Glenn Maxwell won’t be able to deliver. Usman Khawaja is expected to warm the bench in the first game.
Player To Watch Out For:
David Warner has a very bad Test record against India and he will be eager to correct it this series. His ability to change the course of the match with quick scoring can easily dent the oppositions confidence. If Warner isn’t picked up early in his innings, more often than not he is going to make you pay.
Probable XI: 1. David Warner, 2. Matt Renshaw, 3. Steven Smith (capt), 4. Shaun Marsh, 5. Peter Handscomb, 6. Mitchell Marsh/Glenn Maxwell, 7. Matthew Wade (wk), 8. Mitchell Starc, 9. Steve O’Keefe, 10. Nathan Lyon, 11. Josh Hazlewood.
Series Prediction: 4-0 win to India.