Top-ranked India are seen as the favourites in the four-match Test series against Australia which begins in Adelaide on Thursday.
The Virat Kohli-led Indians enter the series confident of registering their first-ever Test series win Down Under as Australia are without the banned duo of Steve Smith and David Warner.
But series defeats in South Africa and England in 2018 mean India will have some doubts in their mind as they take to the field.
Here we take a look at a couple of key tactics for India as they aim to hit the ground running.
PLAY LYON CAUTIOUSLY
India’s batsmen must have gone through hours of footage of Australian quicks Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Everyone knows what they will bowl – fast, short and with movement off the pitch. For the No1 Test team, surviving the pace barrage will be top priority. But equally important will be not giving wickets to off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
The off-spinner was the highest wicket taker on either side – with 23 scalps – when the Aussies won 2-0 at home in 2014/15. The classical off-spinner bowls with a lot of overspin and gets extra bounce. Plus, he bowls outside the off stump, drawing the batsmen out more than say Ravi Ashwin.
India might be tempted to go after Lyon once the quicks are out of the way but they should rather look to play him off the back foot with soft hands and into the on-side to make sure he doesn’t end up with ‘cheap’ wickets. It might be boring but at least until the majority of the Indian batting starts to fire, they should hold back on attacking Lyon.
DON’T BOWL TOO STRAIGHT
India’s fast bowlers made life difficult for batsmen during the tours of South Africa and England earlier in the year. But the spicy wickets had a lot to do with it. India’s pacers swung and seamed the ball all day across every day of play. That is unprecedented over an eight Test period.
However, the Kookaburra ball and hard Australian pitches are unlikely to aid swing and seam for long, if at all. Bowling full and straight worked brilliantly for Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma – to a degree – earlier in the year but that is unlikely to work Down Under.
Jasprit Bumrah is the only bowler in the team who has the pace and natural length to get the ball to kick off the surface in Australia. The rest of the pacers will have to focus on bowling outside off stump and induce false strokes. Short balls directed at the armpits are another good ploy but those have to be extra effort balls.
Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.
The 2011 World Cup and 2007 World T20-winning opener was a stalwart for his country for more than a decade and also won two Indian Premier League titles with the Kolkata Knight Riders.
In an emotional retirement announcement on his official Facebook page, Gambhir addressed the negativity and self-doubt which have affected his game in later years and said: “After more than 15 years of cricket for my country, I want to retire from playing this beautiful game.
“I’ve seen wishes come true – two World Cups, highest run-getter in the final of both of these games is the stuff dreams are made of. Somewhere on the top is being the number one Test team in the world.
“A trophy I’ll look at very fondly is the one I got for being awarded the ICC best Test batsman of the year in 2009. For a purist like me, it is a reward for somewhat knowing where my off stump was. I think someone up there was writing my script. But now it looks like he has run out of ink.”
The 37-year-old began his professional career in 1999-2000 and made his India debut in April 2003, in a one-day international against Bangladesh. His first Test came against Australia the following year.
He last represented his country in 2016, in a Test match against England in Rajkot, but continued to play domestically in all three formats for Delhi. His Test career ended with 4,154 runs at 41.95 including 22 fifties and nine hundreds. He added over 6,000 further runs in limited-overs internationals.
Kohli enjoyed a brilliant tour of Australia in 2014/15 as he scored a little under 700 runs in four Tests. And he is is the undisputed No1 batsman in the world this year, having scored just under 600 runs on an arduous tour of England when no other batsman made even 400 runs.
The India skipper knows he will be the main target of Australia’s fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in the Test series. And he prepared for that challenge by facing top Indian quicks during an intense training session in Adelaide.
India’s pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav gave it their all as they bowled to Kohli, who also took numerous throwdowns from the support staff.
Watch the video below.