This is part 3 of a series. For the previous part, click here.
Considering this is already a two-part article, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add a third part too, analysing the Australian squad and giving you a full view of what to expect from the upcoming series. Australia is currently #1 on the WTC Points table and are almost certainly expected to finish there, qualifying for the final. In the five series they have played as part of this cycle, they have won 4 and drawn 1 (away to Sri Lanka), where they had their only loss in 10 games. They even managed to get a win away in Pakistan where the pitches were fighting just as hard to give nothing better than a draw. As their skipper has already called winning a BGT in India an “era-defining” victory even bigger than the Ashes, they will surely be looking forward to regaining the dominance which they had under Waugh and Ponting.
As I already said earlier, their team on paper is strong and has no glaring weaknesses. David Warner and Usman Khawaja will open the innings, and their recent form would surely be a cause of worry for the Indian bowlers. Khwaja plays his first test in India and considering his struggles against spinning tracks in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the spinners will fancy themselves to get him out early. Warner has an underwhelming test record in India, averaging barely 25 in 8 matches but a player with an experience of over a 100 tests and having more runs in tests than 2 of the Fab 4 (Kohli and Williamson) is not something to be taken lightly. Fresh from a double century against a SA lineup consisting of Rabada, Nortje, Ngidi and Jansen, along with the popularity he already enjoys with Indian fans, Warner vs Ashwin could very well turn out to be a feisty battle.
At 3 walks in Marnus Labuschagne and at 4 is Steve Smith. Two of the best test batsmen over the last 3 years with both averaging almost 60 and being known for scoring big, are undoubtedly the biggest challenge India will face. There is no room for error with these 2 at the crease and they are already preparing in unique ways to counter spin, maybe it’ll be the fast bowlers who spring surprises at them to get them out.
If you think there’s now time to relax after the top 4, you couldn’t be more wrong. Travis Head who bazballed England before bazball was even a thing will play at 5. His counter-attacking approach has turned the game on its head in the past despite Australia losing early wickets, and he will not hold back on the smaller grounds in India. His freedom is complimented well by Alex Carey at 6, who in his still young test career has played a bunch of handy knocks down the order staying unbeaten by stitching partnerships with the tail and most recently even reaching his own century against SA.
Next, there’s the 6’6 all rounder Cameron Green who brings to the table not just batting and bowling but also excellent fielding at gully, a position he has made his own. As a batter, he has already shown signs of potential with multiple good innings and also some bursts of brilliance in white ball cricket but what makes him an X factor is his ability as the 5th bowling option. With an advantage in height and strength, he has been used in the middle overs in tandem with other spinners to go past the edge and trouble the batters multiple times.
If there’s any good news, it’s that Starc and Hazlewood are both ruled out of the first test due to injury, but such is the depth of the Australian team that they still have plenty of options to replace both of them. The captain Pat Cummins has put in a lot of effort into his bowling and is easily one of the best test bowlers over the last 2 years. His captaincy has also been commendable, and despite some off-field drama with former coach Justin Langer, he has definitely produced good results.
A fairly uncommon name very likely to make it to the XI is Scott Boland who burst onto the scene at 32 years of age during the Boxing Day test against England in December 2021 when he took 6/7. He ended up with 20 wickets in 3 games in his debut series, only getting a chance because of an injured Hazlewood and troubled the Proteas batters again taking 7 wickets in 2 matches.
If this team looks unbeatable already, let me remind you that no Australian team is ever complete without Nathan Lyon. Since his debut in 2011, he has quietly taken 460 wickets in tests and yes, he is an off spinner who plays most of his games in Australia. To put things into perspective, Ravichandran Ashwin only has 449 wickets, though he has played lesser games. On spinning tracks in India, he is going to be the biggest threat to the Indian batters and his performance could decide the result for Australia. His exceptional skill is going to be most likely coupled with Ashton Agar, someone who has been on the scene for a very long time but never had enough chances. They also have leggie Swepson and a young Todd Murphy in the squad but unless there are some big surprises at the toss, they are going to have to wait a little more to get a chance in the playing XI.
Enough said now, the action has already started on the field and there’s lots of high quality cricket to look forward to.