Two of the world’s top cricketing nations are all set to faceoff Down Under and while one is ranked top dog across formats, the other, a once dominant force, is desperately trying to claw its way back to some semblance of past glory. The legendary rivalry between India and Australia takes on a new edge from November 2018 with the sides playing three T20Is, four Test Matches and three ODIs in a close to three months of the most keenly awaited tours in recent times. While history tells us that the Australians have always had an upper hand at home, the Indian team’s current form has led many, including legend Virender Sehwag to believe otherwise. Will India finally buck the trend and emerge victorious this year? Stay tuned folks!
But, seriously, what better way to come back into world reckoning than securing victory against a top side like India? This is sure to be Cricket Australia’s New Year’s resolution as they get down to business over the next three months.
India and Australia have had their bitter-sweet moments in their long-standing rivalry. While Australia has struggled in India, it has been the same with India while they have travelled Down Under. The Indian team had a remarkable tour of South Africa, earlier this year. Though the team lost the series, 2-1, its performance in the series drew applause from all quarters. Not to forget, the Indian bowlers managed to skittle the entire Proteas line-up in all the three matches. This should stand them in good stead on Aussie pitches.
T20 Internationals @ 01.20pm
1st T20I: 21st November 2018 @ The Gabba
1st T20I: 23rd November 2018 @ Melbourne Cricket Ground
1st T20I: 25th November 2018 @ Sydney Cricket Ground
1st Test: 06th December – 10th December 2018, 05.30am @ Adelaide Oval
2nd Test: 14th December – 18th December 2018, 07.50am @ Perth Stadium
3rd Test: 26th December – 30th December 2018, 05.00am @ Melbourne Cricket Ground
4th Test: 03rd January – 07th January 2019, 05.00am @ Sydney Cricket Ground
One Day International Series @ 08.50am
1st ODI: 12th January 2019 @ Sydney Cricket Ground
2nd ODI: 15th January 2019 @ Adelaide Oval
3rd ODI: 18th January 2019 @ Melbourne Cricket Ground
The last time India toured Australia, they lost the Test series 2-0 and the five-match ODI series 4-1. Rohit Sharma scored a century at Perth in the first ODI back in 2016 and thereafter, the Aussies were whitewashed in the subsequent three-match T20I series. Hence, it is a matter of guarantee that whenever the two heavyweights clash against each other, the action is always high-octane. However, this is not the same Aussies we are talking about. A lot has changed since the start of 2018 and the team has been in steady decline since then.
Australia would be stupid to sledge Virat Kohli on this tour according to Faf du Plessis. For long, the Australian team has been a master of strategic sledging to disintegrate the opposition. They have succeeded in their effort to psyche out players of the pedigree of Jonathan Trott and Marcus Trescothick. Even someone as confrontational as Stuart Broad has faced difficulty in coping with the sledging from the Australian players, as well as the crowd. When an opposition team visits the Australian shores, it’s not just their cricketing skills that would be tested, but also their mental fortitude in the face of constant, planned and skilful sledging by the Australian team, not to forget the usual jeering from the home crowd. However, Faf du Plessis rightly pointed out, there are a few rare players who actually ‘welcome’ such confrontation from the opposition team and Virat Kohli is one of them. He loves it when there is a fight. And he loves it even more when the fight is not just of skills, but also of temperament. The more you sledge him, the more wrath you invite from the Delhi-ite. Du Plessis admitted that they deliberately chose to give Kohli ‘silent treatment’ during India’s South Africa sojourn. Even though Kohli still managed to score nearly three hundred runs in the three-match series, he feels it could have been much worse, had they resorted to confrontational behaviour.
With Australia missing their two top batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner, the upcoming tour presents India a golden chance to do well Down Under. Australia’s batsmen are failing across all three formats, showing a frailty that has become entrenched in the national side and the constant chopping and changing amongst the bowling unit isn’t doing the team any favours either.
India on the other hand come to Australia on the back of a dominating win over West Indies at home and are looking to improve their record in Australia, as much as the hosts are desperate to get back to a winning stride after Test series defeats in South Africa and England. The Australia tour remains India’s only opportunity to make a mark overseas in a year that coach Ravi Shastri had described as a ‘defining period for Indian cricket’.
As already known, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is rested and the Indian Cricket team has made slight changes in its Test and T20’s squad. Strong comebacks have been made by Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel. Hardik Pandya’s absence as an all-rounder bowler might prove to be a big blow but Jaspreet Bumrah and Ishant Sharma’s return would play a big factor in the final outcome.
T20I: Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, K Khaleel Ahmed India
Test: Virat Kohli(c), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Parthiv Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
T20I: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, D Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa
Very ominous signs for Australia heading into the series though, where pitches are more pace and swing friendly, the year 2018 belonged to the emergence of Indian fast bowling. Kohli’s numbers with the bat this year across formats have been gobsmacking, but 2018 (even with one series still remaining) has surely got to be the year of Indian pacers. Once the Indian batting ensemble finds its rhythm and combines with the band of bowlers with emcee Kohli at helm, India won’t be far from playing the tune of world domination, whose notes were first written by the pacers. The bowlers delivered in both away assignments this year, however, it were the batsmen (barring the obvious – Kohli) who surrendered rather too tamely. A telling sign of the shift in power paradigm in Indian Test cricket.
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