Five talking points ahead of the four-match series between the world’s number one Test side India and second-ranked Australia which begins in Pune on Thursday.
Let’s go sledging
Former Australia batsman Mike Hussey warned the visitors that winding up India captain Virat Kohli would only make him more dangerous but skipper Steve Smith has given the green light for sledging.
“It’s all about us making sure that as individuals we’re in the right mindset to go out and succeed and if guys want to get in those kind of battles then go for it,” declared Smith in his first press conference in India.
No one, however, will want a repeat of the 2008 “Monkeygate” scandal at Sydney which almost led to India’s tour Down Under being called off.
Underdog Aussies dare to dream
Though ranked second in the world, Australia will face a super-confident top-ranked India team who are unbeaten in 19 Tests stetching across six consecutive series wins.
The visitors haven’t won a Test in India since they took the 2004 series 2-1 but that hasn’t stopped the underdogs dreaming of a massive upset.
“We know that if we can pull something off and win a series here, we will look back in 10 to 20 years and it will be some of the best times of our lives,” said Smith.
Unbeatable India eye greatness
India have enjoyed comprehensive series wins against South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and England during their unbeaten streak leading coach Anil Kumble to say his side have the potential to become the best ever.
The hosts have won 15 of their last 19 matches but still have some way to go to be bracketed with the best of all time: the dominant West Indies of the 1980s won 40 out of 69 Tests, while Australia triumphed in 72 of 93 Tests from 1999 to 2007.
How to tame the ‘bowling Bradman’
Former captain Steve Waugh warned that Australia would only beat India if they could tame the rampant Ravichandran Ashwin, terming him “the Bradman of bowling”.
It won’t be easy: the record-breaking spinner this month became the fastest to claim 250 Test victims in his 45th match, surpassing Dennis Lillee’s 48-Test mark. And Ashwin has dismissed no less than 61 batsmen in India’s last three series.
Starc reality for Kohli
‘King’ Kohli will stride to the crease in Pune as the world’s top-ranked batsman and the first to score double hundreds in four successive series. His duel with strike bowler Mitchell Starc is likely to be a key battle.
“I think Starc is a brilliant bowler for the sub-continental conditions. He bowls at a genuine pace, can swing the new ball and is an excellent exponent of reverse swing. I am sure he will challenge Kohli throughout the series,” Hussey told the Press Trust of India.