What. A. Ball.
Make no mistake, the Australian test XI line up this summer will be one of the worst seen at home for a generation.
Any team scythed of its best two bats, one being the best Test bat in the world and the other being one of the best home pitch bullies going around is going to struggle. Morale and confidence at an all-time low, a wicketkeeper who is captain but otherwise would struggle to command a spot in the team.
Add into the fact that Australia feels its best No.4 is none other than Mitchell Marsh…what more can be said of that?
And then there is India, a team who finally will come to Australia with a decent fast bowling battery and of course Virat Kohli – the best all form bat in the world – then it’s hard to see how India wouldn’t win.
Except…they still won’t. Here are five reasons why.
1. India are awful away from home
Like all visiting teams these days in modern cricket, India have a poor away record. But they are really poor.
They lost in England to a pretty ordinary English team that had to rely on Jimmy Anderson one time too many. Joe Root was in marginal form, the top three were passengers (save a final century by Alastair Cook in a dead rubber test) and having to rely on centuries by Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes.
And yet they still beat India 4-1.
The matches were closer than the series result would suggest, but they still lost. Kohli tried his absolute hardest but was given no support when the series was alive. A team with ambitions of winning in Australia would probably have wanted to have won or drawn the series in England.
2. India are notoriously slow starters away
To be fair, this isn’t isolated to the Indian team. Most visiting teams start slowly. In days gone past, it was magnified by starting a series in Brisbane, virtually guaranteeing that the visiting team starts one match down.
India gets lucky with the series starting in Adelaide, but in a four-Test series will need to ensure at least a draw…and they don’t happen in Adelaide anymore. Handing a 1-0 start to Australia will be difficult to overhaul.
Credit to India though…in Australia their recent first test form has them competitive, but still unlikely to win. Their England series was over before it got going. Two big losses to start the series sapped India of any momentum.
3. Australia’s home record
We’ve discussed India’s away record. Contrast that with Australia’s home record. They are, by some margin, one of the hardest teams to beat at home in the world. It’s harder to beat Australia in Australia than India in India.
Only the very, very, very best XIs can beat them, and they need everything to go perfectly. India does not have one of the very best XIs. They have seven or eight world class players but fall apart with the remainders.
Australia have fielded poor teams at home before (although, I concede perhaps not as poor as this) and still walked away with the chocolates.
4. The bouncy pitches
Again, India have struggled immensely on bouncy pitches. The only batsman in the current set up who has proven to handle it (with great success) is Kohli. While India seemed to have uncovered a new golden star in Pant, he’s young and will have had no exposure to bouncy pitches. Expect him to be tested.
5. The Australian bowling line up
The top six is a disaster. The wicketkeeper is average. But positions 8, 9, 10, 11 are world-class and another step up on Australian pitches. No team, no matter what form they are in, are going to relish facing Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon at home.
It will be a series that will be bowler-reliant (for both teams), and I’d give the Australian team the edge because the aforementioned bowlers are at home.
I’m predicting a series of fairly low scores – strong bowling attacks, coupled with poor batting lineups will see to that. It will also be grim viewing for most of it. However, despite the fact that the Indian batting line up is better than the Australian one, it is weakened by being away, being in Australia on bouncy pitches and the Australian bowling attack will exploit that better than whatever gains the Indian attack make.
Of course, my prediction is based on a leap of faith that the bowling attack stays fit. It could be really ugly otherwise.
2-1 to Australia. Australia to have taken a 2-0 lead by the end of the 3rd test.
What do you think? Am I being too optimistic in this summer of discontent?