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How Australia can win its first Indian Test tour in five years

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Roar Rookie
3rd August, 2022
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Australia will tour India in February and March of 2023 for four Tests as part of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

The visitors will tour Pune, Bengaluru, Ranchi and Dharamshala in the first Test series for Australia in India in more than five years.

It looks like it’ll be an epic contest, especially following the equally epic 2020-21 Test series in Australia.

Australia will find things difficult in Indian conditions. We haven’t won a Test series in India since 2004-05, when we won 2-1 over Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid’s India.

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Australia have a strong Test XI with the likes of Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.

But the way I see things, there are two clear difficulties for Australia:


1. Spinning conditions.

Can our top six play quality spin? Can our spinners take 20 wickets? Do we need to play two specialist spinners? It’s worth noting our famous 2004 victory came when we fielded a specialist attack comprising Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and (other than in the final Test) Shane Warne.

While there have been some clear difficulties for Australia playing in spinning conditions – for example, against Sri Lanka in the second Test in July 2022 – we’ve also had some notable recent successes, such as against Pakistan in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore. Back in 2016-17. Australia only lost to India 2-1.

2. Aging and struggling batsmen


Warner and Usman Khawaja will both be 36 by the time this Test series comes around. Khawaja is in awesome form since returning to the Test arena, but Warner is not in great touch – he made only 64 runs in Sri Lanka with a top score of 25.

Warner is an Australian all-time great and one of my favourite players, but he’s been the first Australian batsman dismissed in Tests so far in 2022.

David Warner walks to the pavilion

(Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

And who should bat at No. 5 and No. 6? Aside from his bowling heroics in the first Test against Sri Lanka, Travis Head didn’t have a great time in Sri Lanka – he made only 23 runs with a top score of 12.


Cameron Green’s Test average to date is 36. This is an easy question for a home Test series, but I’m not sure that Head and Green necessarily offer enough batting at No. 5 and No. 6.

India of course will have their own difficulties – for example, who’ll be captain? – but that’s for a separate article.


1. Pick specialists and play to your strengths


I remember Dean Jones arguing for this prior to the 2017 Test series. He was right. The formula for Australia to win in India is pick their best players. Don’t try and fit in additional spinners and all-rounders or part-time bowling options, and don’t pick bowlers just because they can bat a little.

We don’t have multiple spinners of the class of Ravichandran Ashwin or a Ravindra Jadeja, so we cannot pretend to be a Subcontinental team. Let’s pick our best XI consisting of the six best batsmen, the best wicketkeeper and the best four bowlers we’ve got.

In the 2017 Test series Smith scored 499 runs, followed by Matt Renshaw with 232 and Peter Handscomb with 198. All are specialists. An all-rounder used by Australia in that Test series, Mitch Marsh, scored only 48 runs in four innings. And, in terms of taking wickets, our successful bowlers were also specialists. Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe took 19 wickets each, Hazlewood nine, Cummins eight and Starc five.

Steve Smith (Photo by Getty Images).

Steve Smith (Photo by Getty Images).

2. Quicks can do plenty of damage – especially with reverse swing

Take a look at Dale Steyn in 2008 (eight wickets at Ahmedabad), Steyn in 2010 (ten wickets at Nagpur), James Anderson and Steve Finn in 2012, and Gillespie, McGrath and Kasprowicz in 2004 (with 20, 14 and nine wickets respectively to win that series).

3. Bat time

Bat time in India as things can – and will – change very quickly when the tide turns. I’m sure that Labuschagne and Smith will bat time, but India might be hard for some of the others – for example, Ricky Ponting averaged just 26 across 14 Tests in India, including one century. In the remarkable 2001 series Ponting made only 17 runs from five innings with three ducks. Warner averages only 24 across eight Tests in India, having never scored a ton.

In 2017 Australia was carried to a massive extent by Smith’s batting. Ge made hundreds in Pune, Ranchi and Dharamsala. What’s notable about most of the other Australian batsmen is that they scored slowly – for example, Renshaw’s strike rate was 38, Handscomb 40, Wade 43 and Shaun Marsh 29. Our batsmen will need to be very patient and build innings over time.

Marnus Labuschagne celebrates a century

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Preferred XI

Will Pucovski looks like a special Test batsman at No. 5 for Australia. But there’s a lot of doubt about his health, fitness and wellbeing seemingly stemming from his weakness against the short ball. I am hopeful that Will can make a successful return this summer – or soon! – but for present purposes he can’t be at No. 5.

Cameron Green is another amazing prospect. And his talent is certainly paying off in terms of batting and bowling. However, I think we need six true specialist batsmen in India – subject of course to conditions and form. We might need him depending on conditions, but I see someone with more experience of Indian conditions like Maxwell playing initially. If any conditions demand Australia play three spinners – Lyon, Swepson and either Ashton Agar or Jon Holland – with, say, Pat Cummins as the lone quick, then Green could be back in contention at No. 6 instead of Head and Maxwell.

So I see Maxwell and also Swepson, Agar and Boland playing potentially important roles in this Test series.

Subject to conditions and form, my preferred XI for the initial Tests in India is as follows.

  1. David Warner
  2. Usman Khawaja
  3. Marnus Labuschagne
  4. Steve Smith
  5. Glenn Maxwell
  6. Travis Head
  7. Alex Carey
  8. Pat Cummins (C)
  9. Mitchell Starc
  10. Josh Hazlewood
  11. Nathan Lyon

Reserves: Henry Hunt, Matt Renshaw, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Agar and Scott Boland, with Nic Maddinson and Jyhe Richardson also in the wings.

What do Roarers think? This Test series will come around pretty quickly, so it’s worth considering now. It’ll be a series of great opportunity for many players. If we can win in India again, we can mark another era of Australia being the best cricketing nation in the world.

There’s plenty of cricket between now and then, but I’m already looking forward to it.