- Sanjay Sanapoori | February 9, 2023 | 8:56 am
A tour of India, the Ashes, a World Cup and in all likelihood a World Test Championship Final is what’s in store for Australia in the coming months. For many Australian Cricketers, a win in India seems bigger than winning the Ashes in England. That could be true given Australia’s last series win in India was back in 2004, while they drew and retained their last away Ashes in 2019. The Final Frontier is what many in Australia coin the Australian tour as.
Australia are coming here after six years, which is a huge gap in professional sport. While Australia did not tour for a Test series in the last six years, most of their players have been coming to India almost every year. With IPL and white-ball commitments they have a measure on how the place is. A lot of their line-up was also a part of the previous Test series, providing Australia with prior experience of touring India.
Additionally, India no longer feels like an unknown territory. Spin, and dusty tracks are synonymous to India. Australia know it well, which is probably why they avoided a tour game and instead chose to prepare on a scuffed up surface in Sydney. They also went the distance by scouting a net bowler in India, who could replicate Ashwin’s action, allowing Australia to find some sort of experience in playing Ashwin when he comes on.
Last time too, Australia did not play a tour game and instead went to Dubai for some training sessions against spin. Coming in a week early has allowed Australia to get used to the SG ball, which has been a point of criticism over the years. India themselves claimed that they were not happy with it as the seam wears out rather quickly, leaving little chance for bowlers to find grip and turn.
Strategy-wise, Australia will look at past experience. They came in with four spinners last time, used two, and managed to outplay India on the driest of tracks in Pune. On a pitch completely tilted towards the Indians, Australia showed immense character, and took the game away in style. In 2004, Australia managed to control India’s run-rate while they relied on their pacers, Gillespie and McGrath to do the heavy work.
That tour allowed Australia to understand that pacers have a role in India. With James Anderson doing a really good job in 2012, their belief was vindicated as Australia’s pacers played a huge role in winning them that series. Strategy wise, Australia are likely to be set, Their squad though has some concerns.
Josh Hazelwood, Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc are injured for the first Test. Lance Morris is gaining fame for his pace, and could be playing his first Test, while Scott Boland too will possibly play his first Test away from home, leaving Australia very inexperienced with their bowling attack. With spin, Australia have Nathan Lyon, but the back-up spin option is concern. Mitchell Swepson, after travelling with them for nearly six years has fallen behind the pack and it could be Todd Murphy who gets the nod along with Ashton Agar.
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With their batting, Usman Khawaja and David Warner complained about burnout given their workloads over the Australian Summer. David Warner’s record against spin in India, in particular is a concern, leaving Australia hoping he comes at his best mentally, despite the mental fatigue.
With strategy and squad concerns, Australia gear up for the first Test and a series that promises a lot. They have not won a series against India anywhere since 2014-2015. Their record in the subcontinent too is always susceptible. Recent results in Pakistan and Sri Lanka though will give them confidence, but facing India in their backyard is a different ballgame which Australia are about to experience.