After a tied T20I series (1-1), the much-anticipated four-match Test series is all set to start in Adelaide.
There has been a huge build-up to this Test series and there are a couple of things to take note of.
This is Australia’s first Test series at home since the ball-tampering saga and hence, the hosts have a big point to prove. On the other hand, this is India’s third away series this year and having lost both the previous series (1-2 in South Africa and 1-4 in England), the Virat Kohli-led side will be eager to turn the tide.
Hence, with the first Test not too far away, here are five players who might be critical in this series.
The 24-year-old right arm pacer from Gujarat has been absolutely brilliant over the last couple of years for the Indian team. He seems to be in prime form and has become India’s go-to bowler in all the three formats.
Bumrah made his Test debut earlier this year in South Africa and there were doubts whether he could transform his white-ball success into red-ball cricket. However, he squashed every single one of them as he has transformed into one of India’s leading pacers in the longest format of the game.
On pitches where there’s unlikely to be a lot of sideways movement, India will bank on Bumrah to give them regular breakthroughs.
Pat Cummins was Australia’s unsung hero in the Ashes last year. He picked up 23 wickets in his maiden Test series at home. He then went to South Africa and even though Australia lost the four-match Test series 1-3, he didn’t disappoint. He was Australia’s best bowler on that tour as he picked up 22 wickets in four games.
After the South Africa tour, the 25-year-old New South Wales pacer was injured and was out of action for about six months. However, he’s made a decent comeback and seems to be in excellent rhythm. Alongside Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, Cummins will pose a huge threat to the Indian batsmen.
Usman Khawaja might be recovering from a knee injury, but Ricky Ponting has backed him to pip Virat Kohli in this series. The former Aussie skipper feels that Khawaja will outscore the Indian captain in the upcoming four-match series.
The 31-year-old left-hander has been in good form in recent times. He was Australia’s best batsman in the UAE when they faced Pakistan in a two-Test series. He struck a magnificent 141 to help the Aussies save the game in Dubai. Khawaja also has a terrific record at home where he averages close to 60.
Thus, in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, the onus will once again be on Khawaja who will want to hold this Australian batting together.
Rishabh Pant is one player who has grabbed everybody’s attention. With Wriddhiman Saha out injured and Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel fluffing chances, Rishabh Pant has become India’s No. 1 Test wicket-keeper.
The 21-year-old Delhi player didn’t have a great start to his Test career. He failed to cross the 30-run mark in his first five innings. However, he has made a score of 90+ in his last three Test innings (114, 92 and 92). This is his first tour to Australia and all eyes will be on how he adapts to the conditions here.
Not only with the bat, but he will also have to adapt well with the gloves. His performance with both bat, lower down the order and gloves might well define the course of the series for India.
Any list of players to watch out for is incomplete without Virat Kohli. All the pre-series talk in the Australian camp and the media has been about the Indian captain and how to keep him quiet. By far, Kohli has been India’s best Test batsman this year.
He’s conquered South Africa and England as a batsman and ended up as the leading run-getter in both series. However, a lack of support from the other end meant that India never had enough runs on the board. Now, Kohli is back to Australia, a place where he absolutely loves batting.
He smashed the hosts four years ago in the Test series as he struck four hundreds in four games.
He will once again be the key for India and will look to lead from the front.