One of the most anticipated clashes of India’s home Test summer is on the anvil with the first of the four-match Test series against Australia getting underway at Pune on Thursday 23 February.
Knowing the importance of a good start, both sides will be itching to set the tone for the rest of the series - but can Australia pull off an upset in the opener?
India v Australia Preview
It’s official now – facing India in India is the biggest challenge of contemporary times. If you think they have been bullies on turning tracks only, think again. Their success against England has come on sporting wickets after losing tosses and facing huge first-innings totals.
This team under Virat Kohli symbolises a new streak of fearlessness. Aggression is the new mantra as batsmen pile up runs at a heavy clip and bowlers swoop on the opponents with unrelenting accuracy. Six consecutive series wins later, Kohli’s men start the series as heavy favorites.
But that’s not the end of story for the Aussies who have enough rays of hope if they look around. Opening slot is still a worry for India who for long have been dependent on Kohli and Pujara to shore up things. The hosts would hope for better starts to reduce the burden on their star batsmen.
With the ball, the super-men of spin Ravinchandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would lead the attack. The team may think on including a third spinner – Jayant Yadav springs to mind.
Can the Aussies hold their guns?
The only time in their home stretch that India were tested was by South Africa in the opening Test. Australia know that if they can keep the Indians on the back foot in this Test, it may well open up avenues of a series win.
But that’s wishful thinking as the visitors may encounter a spin-heavy track. Much will depend on how David Warner and Steve Smith can counter the threat as most of the other batsmen aren’t accomplished against spinners.
With the ball, Nathan Lyon will have a tough task in balancing his priorities and keeping the fleet-footed Indians in check. Mitchell Starc’s ability to reverse and Josh Hazlewood’s consistent lines will be a help but the pitch may not suit them.
India v Australia Lineups
India may go with a third spinner and unless they want to unleash the wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav, it should be the off-spin of Jayant who may get the nod. Karun Nair’s triple-century against England may still not get him a place in the playing XI.
Australia will have to decide between Usman Khawaja and Matt Renshaw at the top with the former’s troubles in Sri Lanka tilting the balance towards the rookie. Mitchell Marsh should get his place back as all-rounder while Steve O’Keefe should slot in as the second spinner.
India v Australia Odds and Prediction
Expectedly, a home win is offered at odds of $1.70 (Unibet
) while an Aussie win is offered at $5.00 (bet365
Ashwin at odds of $2.50 (William Hill
) and Starc at odds of $3.75 (bet365
) are tipped to be the top bowlers for their sides.
*State exclusions apply to some offers. NSW Residents are excluded from bonuses and offers. Please read the T&Cs of each offer with each bookmaker.