The last time India toured Australia in the 2014-15 season, it succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in the four-match Test series against the hosts.
Although it was an easy series win, Virat Kohli’s performance was probably the only reason Australia couldn’t deliver a whitewash.
The Indian skipper was the second highest runscorer of the series [behind Steve Smith’s 769] and the highest scorer among Indian batsmen, with 692 runs, at an average of 86.50.
Those runs included four scintillating centuries and a half-century. Each innings lifted India from situations of crisis and helped it to post competitive totals.
As another gruelling contest begins between India and Australia, the hosts will have more headaches to deal with other than just Kohli.
Considering the stronger unit India is fielding, Australia should devise plans for dealing with five Indian players in particular – in addition to Kohli – to stop the tourists from winning their first series in Australia.
The Indian opener with 59 Tests to his name hasn’t had the best of times recently. His average over six Test matches this year is only 21.18.
His only notable contribution came against Afghanistan at home, when he scored 105 runs at Bengaluru. He hasn’t done much in the away series against South Africa and England either, where he averaged 17 and 6.50 respectively.
But recently, he seems to be getting back into the groove. He found form during his county stint at Essex, and backed that up with an unbeaten 129 runs off just 132 deliveries in the practice match against the Cricket Australia XI.
He was the second highest scorer among Indian batsmen in the last tour Down Under, with 482 runs to his name at an average of 60.25.
Australia has every reason to worry about dealing with him – he is unstoppable when he gets going.
India’s arsenal lacked a fast bowler on their previous tour. It needed a bowler who could instil the same fear and doubts in the minds of Australian batsmen as their bowlers did to Indian batsmen.
India has found that weapon in Jasprit Bumrah.
Celebrating his 25th birthday on Thursday, his transformation from a white-ball specialist to a red-ball player has been tremendous.
He picked up 14 wickets at an average of 25.21 in his debut Test series in South Africa earlier this year. He followed it up with another fabulous performance in England, where he picked up the same number of wickets in a similar number of matches, at an average of 25.92.
He now holds a total of 28 wickets in six matches at an overall average of 25.57. Australian conditions will suit Bumrah’s style of bowling, so expect him to make those figures read even better.
The teenager has been ruled out of the first Test at Adelaide after injuring his ankle in the practice match against the CA XI, but he will make his opportunity count once he returns to the squad during the latter part of the series.
He’s had a dream start to his Test career with 237 runs in three innings, including a century on debut at Rajkot.
He also scored a boundary-laden 66 in the practice match against CA XI before hurting himself. That sums up how quickly he adapts to the conditions. Australia needs to watch out for him once he recovers and returns to the crease.
Kumar only played one Test during India’s 2014-15 tour, and was hammered for 168 runs in two innings, with only one wicket to his name as consolation.
But he is now a totally different bowler.
Up to 2015, he took 29 wickets in 12 Tests, at an average of 35.00. Since then, he has accounted for 34 wickets in nine Tests, with a terrific bowling average of 18.32.
He missed the tour of England this year due to a back injury, but he showed his capability when he took 10 wickets at an average of 20.30 in two matches in South Africa pre-injury.
His partnership with Bumrah is going to be crucial for India. Kumar also averages 22.08 with the bat in Tests, and has three half-centuries to his name. His defiance with the bat lower down the order is going to play a key role in India’s game plan.
The wicketkeeper and left-handed batsman may look like an out-and-out white-ball player, considering his aggressive batting approach, but he staked his claim as a Test player during India’s tour of England this year.
He didn’t have the best start to his career: He registered scores of 24, one, 0, 18 and five in his first five innings.
However, he came back strongly with a stroke-filled 114 off just 146 deliveries in the final Test against England at The Oval, an effort that almost led India to victory.
— Rishabh Pant (@RishabPant777) November 17, 2018
He then posted identical scores of 92 in consecutive innings against the West Indies at home, and now boasts an overall average of 43.25 in five Test matches.
The fast and bouncy pitches in Australia may suit his style of batting and we may see him among the top run-getters this series as well.
The first Test starts in Adelaide at 11am (AEST) on Thursday, December 6.
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc. Omitted: Mitch Marsh (vc), Chris Tremain.
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar