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State of affairs for Nagpur

State of affairs for Nagpur


Australia this week embarks on its latest quest to achieve another of cricket’s rarest feats, nearly six long years after a 2-1 heartbreak on Indian soil.

Beating India in India is as hard as it gets, but Australia arrive in sweltering form and with plenty of good vibes around the playing group led by Pat Cummins and Andrew McDonald.

India, meanwhile, is battling some major injury scars hampering its defense of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which kicks off on Thursday (3pm AEDT).

Nevertheless, there is no shortage of major threats for Australians to lose sleep over and that’s without mentioning a revitalized Virat Kohli.

Scroll down for our state of affairs in India.

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Deciphering India’s test form on its way to the blockbuster series is difficult purely due to the fact that it has barely played five-day games in recent times.

In the past 12 months, India has played just five Tests. That is the fewest of any Test playing nation, and five less than Australia has played in the same period.

India won four of those five matches, beating Sri Lanka twice at home and Bangladesh twice away, with a seven-wicket loss to England at Edgbaston in July.

The 2021 country was much busier from a Test perspective with 14 games played against England in the calendar year, eight of which.

India only lost three of those encounters, which is why it is still ranked as the second best Test country in the world, according to the ICC, despite a lack of matches of late.

Over the past two years, India’s win-loss ratio of 1,833 is behind only Australia, which has lost just one of its past 15 Tests.

Depending on where you rank Bazball-era England, the Border-Gavaskar series is a battle between the two biggest Test nations in the world, or at least two of the top three.

< style="display:block;padding-top:56.25%"/>In the past 12 months, India has played just five Tests.
In the past 12 months, India has played just five Tests.Source: AFP


Australia could miss Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc for the first Test, but it’s India nursing even deeper wounds.

The team’s injury list includes two names that Australians need no introduction to: Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant.

Both have excellent records against Australia.

Since the start of the summer 2018-2019, Bumrah has taken 32 wickets at 21.25 against Australia, behind only Stuart Broad (36 at 26.52) for Aussie scalps taken in that span.

Needless to say, the loss of Bumrah is a huge blow to India. The unorthodox fast bowler brilliantly led Indian attacks that claimed successive Border-Gavaskar trophies in Australia in 2018-19 and 2020-21.

In the final series, Pant delivered one of the greatest Test innings of all time at the Gabba as he smoked an unbeaten 89 off 138 balls to Australia to claim the series in the nation’s fortress.

However, that wasn’t the only time Pant tormented Australia. The wicket-keeper batsman’s seven Tests against Australia have seen him make 626 runs at 62.40, with an impressive strike rate of 72.13.

The 25-year-old will miss the series after a horrific fiery car accident in December that he thankfully survived. He underwent surgery in January to repair a torn knee ligament, while also sustaining injuries to his head, back and leg.

KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan were brought in to replace Pant, though neither have played Test cricket.

Former India player and selector Saba Karim said the absence of the pants exposes a major weakness for the Australians to attack.

One spot Australia would like to exploit is that of opposition wicketkeeper. Rishabh Pant has changed the face of Test cricket for India and I hope they don’t feel the pinch of his absence, he said.

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India will miss Rishabh Pant.Source: Getty Images

Bumrah, meanwhile, has not played for India since September due to a back injury. There were hopes that he would be fit in time for the first Test, but he was asked to undergo an additional month of rehabilitation. It means he will miss at least the first two Tests against Australia.

Meanwhile, Shreyas Iyer is recovering from his own back injury which will keep him out for the first test.

India is still closely monitoring the condition of spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jedeja, who has not played for India since August.

He made a successful comeback via the Ranji Trophy last month, while his return to play against Australia would be a big boost for the hosts, with slow left-handers potentially playing a big role.

Jadeja was India’s leading wicket taker on Australia’s final tour in 2017, taking 25 wickets at 6.56pm.

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Jasprit Bumrah will miss at least the first two Tests.Source: Getty Images


Missing Bumrah and Pant robs India of two major threats, but leaves plenty for Australians to worry about.

Arguably at the top of that list is veteran tweaker Ravichandran Ashwin, a formidable opponent on home soil.

Why else would Australia have picked a so-called Ashwin impersonator from Indian domestic cricket to pitch to its batters?

Young spinner Mahesh Pithiya, whose action is eerily similar to Ashwin’s, has been bowling into the nets for the Australians for the past week as part of the visitors’ preparation.

It was enough to amuse former India opener Wasim Jaffer, who tweeted: (Ashwin) is already in Aus head.

Of Ashwin’s 449 Test wickets, 312 of them came home at an average of 21.16 runs apiece.

Against Australia, he took 21 wickets at 27.38 in India’s final Border-Gavaskar series, while holding a strong record against some of the top tourist hitters.

Ashwin has sacked David Warner 10 times in Test cricket at an average of 33.10, and Steve Smith six times with 44.33. Those averages may not seem like much, but they are well below the normal production rates of those hitters.

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The Indian Ravichandran Ashwin is one of Australia’s biggest threats.Source: AFP

Meanwhile, the orthodox left-arm spinners have been rioting in India for the past three years, with four of the top five wicket takers Axar Patel, Jack Leach, Ajaz Patel and Jadeja included in the discipline. In India’s last Border-Gavaskar series in 2017, Australian left arm tweaker Steve OKeefe was the country’s top bowler with 19 wickets at 23.26.

As such, it should come as no surprise to see Jadeja or Axar Patel cause huge headaches in this series as well. That said, the latter is in a selection clash with left arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, with opinion in India divided over who should play the first Test.

Former India fast Irfan Pathan firmly believes Patel should play, singles out the 29-year-old as the only bowler who can give Smith a major headache.

If he regularly plays all matches, the kind of trajectory he has, he could be a major threat to him, Pathan said, according to the Hindu times.

The line and length he bowls, the straight ball he bowls, he can bring the lbw or bowling into play against Steve Smith, especially as he uses his bottom hand a lot.

A bowler who continuously bowls at the stumps can prove to be an alarm bell against such a player, that is Axar Patel.

As for the bat, this series looms as a chance to seal a legacy for one man

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Axar Patel is in a selection confrontation with Kuldeep Yadav.Source: Getty Images


Crazy to think now, but Kohli went 1,021 days without scoring an international century, a drought that only ended in September.

Concern grew that Kohli would never be the same until he scored 122* in a T20I against Afghanistan to end the hoodoo.

He then promptly destroyed three more centuries in his next four ODIs.

In T20s, Kohli has made 606 runs with 67.33 since the start of September, including a century and a whopping six fifties.

It is true that it is against the cue ball that Kohli is at his best again, but the form also bodes well for the series against Australia.

Kohli has clearly hit the reset button by taking more than a month away from cricket before September. In that period, something clicked for Kohli that should frighten Australia, and any opponent of India for that matter.

Since coming back from that long break I feel very good about my game, he said after making 166* off 110 balls against Sri Lanka last month. I no longer have that desperation to reach a milestone.

I’m happy with how I play, and that’s the most important thing for me.

I was just happy to be there, to hit, to hit as long as possible. In that room I end up playing my best cricket. That has been the case in the past. When I got a little desperate, things started to run away from me.

Kohli is living proof that no matter your age or level of greatness, you really never stop learning.

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Crazy to think now, but Kohli went 1,021 days without scoring an international century.Source: AFP

That he seemingly unlocked another level of greatness prior to visiting Australia is unfortunate timing for Pat Cummins and co.

Already one of the most formidable opponents Australian bowlers have ever faced, Kohli now has the chance to cement his legacy in this storied rivalry.

Kohli has been the defining figure of the Border-Gavaskar series for over a decade. During his first 12 Tests against Australia, he recorded a whopping six centuries, five of which came on foreign soil.

Now, at the age of 34, we see Kohli playing some of his final Tests against Australia against which he scored 1,682 runs at 48.05.

Within those numbers, however, there is a cricket anomaly that Kohli aims to rectify in the coming weeks.

Thanks to a disastrous 2017 run in which he made just 46 runs at 9.20, Kohli averages much less at home against Australia than away. In seven home Tests against Australia, Kohli averages just 33.00, well below his career average of 48.90.

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Aussies prepare for first test in India | 00:40

With other senior players unavailable, the pressure will be on Kohli to reverse that form line and put another long-lasting mark on the Australians.

Meanwhile, the possible inclusion of Shubman Gill would give the Indians a sense of continuity with the 23-year-old looking like the all-size heir apparent to Kohli.

As Gills begins testing life has been relatively quiet, he has averaged 73.76 from 21 ODIs and is fresh from smashing an incredible 126 not off 63 balls against New Zealand in the third T20.

His recent performances earned him the nickname Smoothman Gill from Sunil Gavaskar, while teammate Hardik Pandya tipped him for greatness.

He will definitely reach greater heights in his career not because of what he did today, but because of his work ethic and the fairness to his game, Pandya told the BCCI website after Gill’s century.

Meanwhile, Jaffer told ESPNCricinfo that Gill came of age just before Australia’s visit.

He added, he is a three-size player and after Virat Kohli, he is the next big hitter who will be fine.




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