The year started off with India recording a historic maiden Test series win in Australia, with Virat Kohli’s men prevailing by 2-1 in the four-match series. Since then, India have tightened their grip on the No1 ICC ranking while also making a flying start in the inaugural World Test Championship.
An away series clean sweep in the West Indies, along with home whitewashes over South Africa and Bangladesh, have meant that India remain top dogs in the format and the team to beat. But while India have been going from strength to strength in the Test format, Australia are slowly starting to regain that fearsome aura which has eluded them for large parts of 2018.
For most of 2019, it looked to be New Zealand who would be India’s greatest challengers for the Test crown with the Kiwis continuing an unbeaten run which started all the way back in March 2017. That was until they crossed the Trans-Tasman Sea to arrive on the shores of their old nemesis.
It has taken just two Tests in Australia for New Zealand to go from world-beaters to near amateurs with the hosts dispatching them in devastating style. A combined winning margin of 543 runs across the two Tests underlines Australia’s dominance with the Kiwis barely managing to muster a squeak. This follows from their recent home series whitewash over Pakistan where they won both Tests by a margin of an innings.
Now, it is India and Australia who are looking destined to feature in the World Test Championship final in Lord’s in 2021 and it will take an extraordinary collapse from either for it to not be the case.
Therefore, the four-match Test series between the two sides Down Under that begins towards the end of 2020 is already capturing the attention of cricket fans around the globe. On current form, there is little to separate the two teams who are both brimming with world-class talent in nearly every position.
India and Australia have a valid claim to holding the best pace attacks in the business at present, with Jasprit Bumrah and the No1 ranked Pat Cummins being their poster boys respectively. In Kohli and Steve Smith, they boast arguably the best Test batsmen of this generation.
Flanked by the likes of David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, their star-studded batting units are what most Test playing nations would kill for.
While India have two of the finest spinners in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Australia will back Nathan Lyon to outperform them, particularly on home conditions.
It is a shame that the duel between the two giants is nearly a year away, but that excruciating wait will only add to the anticipation. Other Test nations are at least a tier below the Indians and Aussies currently, with New Zealand’s credentials taking a giant beating.
England continue to oscillate between the brilliant and utterly ridiculous, while South Africa are only starting to piece together a squad ravaged by retirements of several stalwarts.
Pakistan remain Pakistan, while Sri Lanka are a shadow of the side which once boasted Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralitharan. West Indies have been in eternal freefall for decades, while Bangladesh seemed to have moved backwards despite carrying a Test status for many years.
While the Ashes remains the crème de la crème of Test battles, there is an argument to be made for the Australia-India showdown to be billed as the coming decade’s greatest rivalry. With India’s bilateral engagements against Pakistan out of the picture for now, that claim is only substantiated.
Now back in full flow from the abyss created by the ball-tampering episode, Australia are starting to rediscover the arrogance that defined their decades of continuous domination. India, on the other hand, have finally started to flex the muscles their financial superiority provides.
With Australia now back to full strength, repeating the exploits of 2018-19 will take an almighty effort from India. Tim Paine and his men, meanwhile, will back themselves to put the record straight once again.
It will be very much a battle of the equals next year, and it could turn out to be one for the ages.
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