With the days dwindling until their first official World Cup fixture against Afghanistan on June 1, the Australian set up still finds itself grappling with the constitution of their preferred top order.
Much has been written about the upcoming Test series and the role Virat Kohli will play as India’s premier Test batsman.
It’s safe to say India’s chances of winning the series depend to a large degree on how the world’s current best Test batsman fares against a very useful Australian attack, who will be bowling under home conditions.
Little has been said about the Indian team’s chances under Kohli the captain which, in my view, is almost as important as his exploits as a batsman.
Indian Test cricket is not renowned for overseas victories at Test level. India has played a total of 229 Tests away from home and won exactly 47 of them.
On paper, Kohli is the Indian captain with the best Test winning record overseas with nine victories, which gives him a 42.86 per cent winning record.
In this day and age, where Test sides really struggle away from home, this seems like a very good achievement – but seven of these nine victories were in the sub-continent, where conditions were pretty much the same as in India.
His only other two victories in 21 away Tests were a Test each against South Africa and England earlier this year.
Australia managed to get under his skin in India in 2017, so much so that he only made 46 runs in five innings.
They will be out to pressure him again because he is the cornerstone of the India batting lineup.
Kohli claims he’s a changed man from his pugnacious earlier days, but will he remain calm if India don’t perform, especially early in the series?
If he gets riled up, what impact will that have on the rest of the team?
His performances as captain in England and South Africa did not come under a lot of scrutiny by the media, perhaps because he was trying to singlehandedly win Tests for India with the bat.
Nevertheless, he seemed to struggle with his field placements and bowling changes, certainly in England.
It seems remarkable how many times the bottom three or four batsmen for England gave them match wining totals.
Chris Woakes and Tom Curran made runs with ridiculous ease in that series, yet Kohli could not motivate his top order to make big scores until the series was already lost.
Kohli the captain also seems to have a lot of say in who plays in each Test and the selectors seem give him who he wants.
That’s resulted in the Indian side rarely being the same in back-to-back Tests. It has also meant guys who weren’t suited to certain conditions were played and did poorly.
Cheteshwar Pujara not playing in the early England Tests and Umesh Yadav getting a run are a couple of examples where the wrong selections were made for the conditions and it cost India dearly.
In recent times, Kohli has lost overseas Test series against South Africa, England and the final of the Champions Trophy when they were odds-on to win easily against Pakistan.
His record in Australia shows Kohli has little to prove as a batsman, however Kohli the captain has to shine if India are to take home the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.