This is it for Australia. They face top-ranked India in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy without batting mainstays Steve Smith and David Warner, and with the spotlight firmly on their journey since the ball-tampering scandal earlier in the year.
Australia captain Tim Paine said he is getting sick and tired of talk about team culture and the scandalous South Africa tour at the beginning of the year. The Baggy Green now have an opportunity to let the bat and ball do the talking against a cagey Indian team that has lost six out of eight Tests in 2018.
The Australians will be relying on their pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood to contain Kohli and the rest of India’s batting, even if the line-up fails to elicit as much confidence.
Here we take a look at the key tactics for the hosts as they aim to get an edge in the opening clash.
PITCH IT UP TO KOHLI
According to data by CricViz, during the eight Tests in South Africa and England, India skipper Virat Kohli averaged 46.28 against full deliveries, 66.33 against good length balls and 69.33 against the short stuff.
Moreover, according to ESPNcricinfo, England seamer James Anderson produced 53 false shots from Kohli by the third Test without dismissing him. In 2014, Kohli had played a false shot 54 times and had been out 10 times for an average of less than 14.
So the simple strategy is to bowl full and swing the ball away or nip it back in. He might cover drive an entire session but as a luckless Anderson showed this year, Kohli will still edge the away moving ball. Or fall over and get hit on the pads. The Aussie bowlers and fielders just need to be switched on when that opportunity arrives. He might still score runs but there is a chance of him not having a bumper tour and given his current form, that would be seen as a huge victory.
IF PITCH IS FLAT, PACK THE ON-SIDE AND BOWL STRAIGHT
Australia’s tall quicks have a distinct advantage over their Indian counterparts – they can go to the default mode and plug the runs if the pitch is too flat. Josh Hazlewood in particular has the ability to run in hard even at the end of a hot day and bowl tight and into the batsmen’s body.
If by some twist of fate the wicket turns out to be particularly flat in any of the four Tests, the best way to unsettle India’s batting is to dry up the runs and wait. India’s batting, apart from Kohli, seems to have forgotten how to play the long innings. Also, since India’s batting line-up will most likely be light given the absence of batting all-rounder Hardik Pandya, they can feel cornered fairly early.
Since no batsman apart from Kohli has shown the ability this season to fight his way out of a hole, the Aussie quicks can look to first attack and if that doesn’t work, pack the on-side with fielders and bowl straight. It was a strategy employed by the Aussies to lethal effect when they won the 2004 series in India 2-1.
Australia‘s teenage batsman Ollie Davies hit six sixes in a single over as part of a 115-ball double century in a one-day match.
Davies, 18, struck 14 fours and an astounding 17 sixes in the first day of the Cricket Australia Under-19 Male National Championships in Adelaide.
Davies, playing for New South Wales Metro against Northern Territory, came in at number three and took 74 balls to make his first century and 39 for his second.
The 40th over – bowled by off-spinner Jack James – saw captain Davies hit six maximums at the Glandore Oval in a 207-run innings as the NSW side reached 406-4 in their 50 overs.
Speaking to cricket.com.au, he said: “After the first two sixes I sort of had in the back of my head that I wanted to try and give it a crack and it sort of paid off at the end. I was just getting down the back leg before the ball was even bowled and just trying to slog-sweep them over midwicket.”
Former captain Michael Clarke has told the Australian team to stop trying to be the nice guys and concentrate on winning matches.
Australian cricketing has been battling an image problem since the ill-fated tour of South Africa earlier in the year that saw ball-tampering and sledging scandals, resulted in one-year bans for Steve Smith and David Warner and culminated in a cultural review of Australian cricket.
The entire top hierarchy was booted out as Australia tried to improve its image. After an independent review into the scandals revealed a bullying culture, the team came up with a ‘Players’ Pact’, asking Australians to “compete with us, smile with us, fight with us, dream with us”.
Test captain Tim Paine insisted on shaking hands with opponents before a series, which is in contrast to the way the Aussies played earlier.
Clarke, however, is having none of it and wants winning to be the priority.
“Australian cricket, I think, needs to stop worrying about being liked and start worrying about being respected,” Clarke was quoted as saying by AFP.
“Play tough Australian cricket. Whether we like it or not, that’s in our blood.”
Clarke said Aussie fans wanted victory more than anything else.
“If you try and walk away from it, we might be the most liked team in the world, we’re not going to win,” he said. “We won’t win a game. Boys and girls want to win.”