Team India touched down in Australia over the weekend, without regular captain MS Dhoni for a grueling four and a half month tour. Historically poor travelers to Australia, the relatively inexperienced team in Australian conditions will try to grant India its first Test series victory Down Under, as well as then back it up to defend their World Cup title in four months’ time.
Coming off some great form in one day cricket, recently beating England 4-1 in the UK, and at home the West Indies and Sri Lanka 3-0 and 5-0 respectively, India will be looking to take some of that form and confidence into the upcoming Test series.
Due to the length of the tour, Indian selectors named a 19 man squad (to be trimmed to 18 once Dhoni is fit) for the Test leg, and includes a relatively settled core group of players with a couple of surprises. L Rahul was named in the squad as a back-up opening option for M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, after making 1158 runs at an average of almost 53 in 15 first-class matches last season. Leg spinner Karn Sharma was named as a cover for Ashwin and Jadeja, but the biggest surprise was that of Suresh Raina. Having lost his place in the ODI side earlier this year, Raina made a strong case for Test selection with great form in both ODIs and T20s after his return to the Indian team during the tour of England.
India have most often failed to adapt to the pace and bounce on offer in Australia, both as a batting unit and as a bowling unit. The inclusion of Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav in the squad has sent a strong message to the Australians that India now have the firepower to match in the bowling department. Aaron impressed one and all recently in the ODI series against Sri Lanka, exceeding speeds of 150km/h, while Yadav, along with Shami and Ishant can consistently bowl at greater than 140km/h.
On facing Australia’s barrage of pace, stand in Captain Virat Kohli thinks his team is more than capable of handling the Australian pace attack, led by ICC Cricketer of the Year Mitchell Johnson. “Pace and bounce is something you can get used to. But unless you’re mentally there, there’s no point of any sort of practice,” he said. “They are good enough to tackle any sort of bowling in any conditions. The guys in our team have the ability to do it … I don’t see any reason why we can’t put up a good fight.”
Australia will go into the first Test rather unsettled, despite winning their recent ODI series 4-1 against South Africa. Australia have taken a gamble on Clarke’s fitness by naming him in the squad of 12 to face India at the Gabba. However, there is uncertainty about his fitness, and even more confusion about whether he will be playing for his club, or the second CA XI warm up game against India prior to the first Test.
Kohli’s promise of matching Australia’s aggression, both cricketing and verbal one assumes, is a welcome change after three back to back spineless performances by India in the last three Tests in England. However, actions speak louder than words, and if the confidence that Kohli exudes of himself and his team translates into results, it will be a very interesting series.
With less than two weeks to go till the first Test match at the Gabba in Brisbane, Team India have only two 2-day affairs against a CA XI in Adelaide to get acclimatised. It will be the first Test for any member of the current Indian side at the Gabba, while with Dhoni missing, Ashwin, Ishant and Kolhi are the only members to have played on the disastrous tour of 2011/12 where the team lost 4-0.
Indian Squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha*, R Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron
*Ojha has been included only for the first Test.
To join the Swami Army around Australia this Test series, head to our Tour page for more information