Virat Kohli insists that suggestions of Australia’s vulnerability after the ball-tampering scandal are unfounded.
The star batsman leads India on their tour as they try to win their first Test series Down Under.
Australia will begin the opening Test at Adelaide on Thursday, weakened by the absence of banned duo Steve Smith and David Warner.
However, Kohli is adamant that the hosts remain formidable at home even without the batting powerhouses.
“I personally don’t think any Australian side is vulnerable at home,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
“You cannot take any side for granted. Whatever happened, the skill level is still there. However much you talk or behave, it’s your skill that counts.
“They still have the skill to dominate at home. We’re not taking anything for granted.”
Much is expected of Kohli in this series and recent footage of him in the nets has only served to increase the hype.
“I love coming to this ground, the city in general,” he said.
“That’s not to say that performances are always guaranteed in a certain place, but at Adelaide I feel different from many other places.”
While Australia will be looking to bring the smile back on the home fans’ faces after a dark period triggered by the ball-tampering scandal, India will be chasing a maiden series win Down Under.
Here, we look at three key battles which can prove decisive.
PUJARA V LYON
While Australia’s fearsome pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will pose a threat to India’s batsmen, they will have to be equally wary of the threat posed by off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
The 31-year-old has always been a consistent performer on Australian pitches and complements the pace attack with his ability to tie down one end. He was the highest wicket-taker when India last toured Australia in 2013-14 with 23 wickets in the series. In fact, Lyon has been the highest wicket-taker in the last three Test series between Australia and India.
To stop Lyon from dominating, India will look towards Cheteshwar Pujara who is one of the best players of spin in the side alongside Kohli. With his quick use of the feet, Pujara has the ability to unsettle spinners from their lengths but he will have to be at his very best given he has never scored a ton on Australian soil.
KOHLI V STARC
India’s top order will have to bear the brunt of Australia spearhead Mitchell Starc’s thunderbolts. With a career strike-rate under 50 and an average just under 29, Starc is as elite a pacer as they come in Test cricket.
The 28-year-old had been sidelined due to injury but is now back to full fitness. Starc has warmed up nicely for the series after his recent limited-overs outings against South Africa and India.
He will be leading the charge against Kohli who will no doubt be the prize wicket for Australia. The India skipper loves playing in Australia and became the first visiting captain to score three centuries in a single series Down Under in 2014.
The No1 ranked Test batsman is in stupendous form in 2018 and he will be eager to end the year with a bang. For that, he will need to first pass the Starc examination.
BUMRAH V FINCH
India’s pace attack is being the considered the very best in its history and it is hard to argue otherwise. There is great depth in the tourists’ fast-bowling battery but it is Jasprit Bumrah who could be their most effective weapon on Australian soil.
Equipped with an unorthodox action, Bumrah has wasted no time in establishing himself at the Test level since making his debut during India’s tour of South Africa. He looked really good in England too and has the ability to generate some awkward bounce.
Bumrah will pose a big test for Australia’s opening batsman Aaron Finch who has only recently made his debut in the format. Finch looked tidy as an opener in Australia’s 0-1 loss to Pakistan in the UAE and has been performing well at the first-class level over the last two years.
The limited-overs stalwart will fancy himself in home conditions but he will have his work cut out against the deceptive pace of Bumrah.
Good morning cricket fans, and welcome to Tuesday’s live cricket blog.
The Sport360 team is in place bringing you the latest cricket news from around the world. We will be bringing you all the updates from day two of the deciding Test between Pakistan and New Zealand.
We will also be looking ahead to the four-match Test series between Australia and India which begins from Thursday.
9:00 pm – Twin retirements
Out-of-form Pakistan batsman Mohammad Hafeez on Tuesday announced he was retiring from Test cricket following the conclusion of the ongoing third and final Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.
Soon, former India opener Gautam Gambhir too announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.
6:30 pm- Pakistan fight
Azhar Ali remained unbeaten on 62 as Pakistan fought their way to 139-3 in reply to New Zealand’s first innings score of 274 on the second day of the third and final Test in Abu Dhabi.
Read the full report here.
12:30pm – Rahane refuses to term India as favourites for Test series
Australia will be without the banned duo of Steve Smith and David Warner but India deputy skipper Ajinkya Rahane believes the hosts remain the favourites for the four-match Test series which gets underway on Thursday.
Read Rahane’s comments on the upcoming series here.
11:30am – Pakistan bowl New Zealand out for 274 first innings of decider
New Zealand’s first innings in the third and final Test against Pakistan has drawn to a close with Yasir Shah picking up the final wicket. Shah removed last-man Boult as the Kiwis were bowled out for 274 runs in their first innings.
BJ Watling remained unbeaten on 77 for the Kiwis after a mammoth 250-ball vigil at the crease. Follow the live action from Pakistan’s first innings response here. To read more on New Zealand’s innings, read our report here.
11:00am – Usman Khawaja calls for privacy over brother’s arrest
Australia top-order batsman Usman Khawaja has requested for privacy for himself and his family after his brother Arsalan was charged and arrested by the country’s counter-terrorism force on Tuesday.
Read Khawaja’s statement in full here.
10:30am – BJ Watling leads Kiwi fightback against Pakistan
Day two of the deciding Test between Pakistan and Zealand is underway at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi. After being restricted to 227-7 on day one, the Kiwis have fought hard in the morning session of day two with BJ Watling getting to his half-century.
Follow the ball-by-ball coverage from Abu Dhabi in this crucial Test here.
10:00am – T10 chief glad to overcome negative reviews from Pakistan territory
T10 League chairman Shaji Ul Mulk is proud to have overcome unfavourable news from ‘one negative territory’ in Pakistan and deliver a successful second edition of the tournament.
Read what Mulk had to say about the success of the tournament here.