About the Match
One of the most fiercely contested rivalries in recent times is about to get under way as India take on Australia. The Aussies are being labeled as the overwhelming underdogs and past players are already predicting a whitewash. Are the tables really that stacked against the visitors or are there potential weaknesses in the Indian lineup that are being glossed over?
1st Test Preview
India has never been an easy place for visiting teams to tour, however, it could rank as the toughest tour in the cricketing world right now. More so for teams that are brought up on a diet of fast bowling, bouncy tracks, and spinners that are often relegated to filling up the gaps in between sessions.
Here are some astonishing facts about India’s dominance at home over the last decade. They have played 50 Tests at home since 1st of January 2007 and lost only four of them. The last time India lost a test at home was against England in 2012 to a side that had two world class spinners in its ranks.
India is unbeaten in Tests since 2015 and has now extended that run to 19 test matches.
There is no question that India is difficult to beat at home at the moment and the main reason for this strength has been down to the form of two players. Virat Kohli and Ravi Ashwin.
Kohli has scored an unprecedented four double centuries in the last four series he has played and Ashwin just became the fastest to reach 250 wickets in the history of the game. Take these two players out of the equation and this Indian team suddenly starts looking a whole lot more beatable.
India has adopted a strategy of playing 5 batsmen followed by Saha, Ashwin, Jadeja and the pure bowlers. This could a risky strategy against Australia’s fast bowlers who could mop up India’s tail easily.
The pitches for this series are also expected to be fairly batting friendly that take a moderate amount of spin as the match progresses. Ashwin and Jadeja will have to work hard for their wickets and it will be interesting to see if a third spinner makes the playing eleven.
We personally feel that Kohli could give youngster Kuldeep Yadav a game and play with two frontline pacers in Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.
Murali Vijay will be an important wicket for the Aussies and his tendency to start series well makes him a good pick to get a 70 plus score.
Lokesh Rahul, the other opener does not give us too much confidence, though.
The main batting strength for India will come from Pujara and Kohli, both of whom we think will have an excellent series. Back both of them to get Hundreds in the first match
There is some suspicion that the first test at Pune could be played on a wicket that is completely dead. This would make taking wickets difficult for Ashwin with his slow pace but favor Jadeja. Back the left armer to pick the most wickets in this match.
There have been calls from former Indian players that this is the weakest Australian team to come to India while former Australian players also seem pretty sure of a 4-0 scoreline ahead.
Steve Smith and his men though will be hopeful that they have done enough to be competitive and maybe win a couple of matches in this series. Australia will go into this match with a couple of tough selection issues ahead of them.
Khawaja or Renshaw, to open along with David Warner? Glenn Maxwell or Mitchell Marsh as the all-rounder?
We think Smith will back Renshaw to play in the first match along with Mitchell Marsh. The captain will bat at 3, followed by Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, Mathew Wade and the bowlers.
It is a batting order full of potential but the real big wickets will be David Warner and Steve Smith. Warner last scored a hundred outside of Australia in 2014 but has been in very good form recently. We think he will like the surfaces on offer and could use the hard new ball to get off to fast starts.
India will likely target him with spin early on to try and upset his tempo. Steve Smith is probably the best player of spin in the Australian team and we think this will be the series that cements his place as an all-time great.
Back him to get plenty of runs in this series including a hundred in the first test.
The real value though will be in discovering the little-known performers.
Matt Renshaw has been pretty forthcoming that he will try and sweep his way to runs in this series. That ploy is fraught with danger and no one apart from Matt Hayden has been able to pull it off in the recent past.
Shaun Marsh warmed up with a hundred and will be expected to score some runs for Australia. His battle against Ashwin will be very crucial and is one that we think he will lose repeatedly.
Peter Handscomb has had an excellent start to his test career, however, he has yet to play outside his comfort zone. Can a predominantly backfoot player succeed in conditions that require batsmen to be aggressive on the front foot?
We think he may find combating the reverse swing from the fast bowlers difficult although he could prosper on slower wickets that give him time to adjust. Back him to get a 50 plus score in this match
The real threat to India’s dominance will come from Hazelwood and Starc. Both players are world class and can utilize reverse swing to deadly effect. Starc showed his effectiveness in similar conditions when he was the premier wicket taker for Australia in Sri Lanka.
Back him to be the highest wicket taker in this match ahead of Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe. Lyon has toured the subcontinent previously without much success while Steve O’Keefe could find life very tough on this tour.
The Odds are stacked against Australia going into this series and we would recommend backing India for the win wholeheartedly.
Winner: India, 1.66 @ Bet on India now