The upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India will be like a ‘final frontier’ for the Pat Cummins-led world No. 1 Australian cricket team, which has been on a roll after the pacer took over from Tim Paine. Australia have had a fine run recently, winning the Ashes and then the series against Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa. They will be in search of their first series win in India in 19 years. In their last tour of India in 2017, they began with a big win in the Pune Test but went on to lose the series 1-2. India, on the other hand, have not lost at home for more than a decade and have a record streak of winning 15 series.
“The Australians will have to summon every ounce of their talent and experience during the next month to succeed. India is no longer the mystery it once was. Tours are more regular and the IPL offers valuable exposure. Attrition takes a huge toll on touring teams. If India are in the contest on day five, they will win,” Chappell wrote in an opinion piece for ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.
The former captain said the key for Australia would be to take wickets at regular intervals.
“Delhi and Dharamshala will be a fortress for India. Nagpur is a red soil pitch on which batting is best on the first three days unless they produce a raging turner. In Ahmedabad there are red as well as black soil pitches and the state of the series will dictate what India order,” he wrote.
“To win, Australia must get wickets with the new ball. As the ball gets softer, they must bowl frugally and then reverse-swing the old ball. Spin is more of a weapon in India than in Australia, but we must always play our four best bowlers plus Cameron Green.”
Comparing India-Australia battle to a game of chess, the Australian legend quoted Austrian chess player Rudolf Spielmann who had said ‘Play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician and the end game like a machine’.
“I have seen a lot of Tests in India and it is as much a battle of the mind as of physical skills. What works in India, is not guaranteed to work anywhere else. Winning in India takes pluck, planning, patience and persistence,” Chappell said.
“Should the pitches favour spin, which is more likely, I expect Ashton Agar to get the nod because finger spin is considered to be more accurate,” said the 74-year-old Chappell who scored 7110 runs from 87 Tests with an impressive average of 53.86 between 1970 and 1984.
“Anil Kumble who took 619 wickets in Test cricket, rarely strayed off the straight and narrow. His stock in trade were fast, flat leg breaks which were always threatening the stumps. Batters knew if they missed, they were in trouble. Jadeja’s stock in trade is similarly unerring.
“Agar has got to emulate their roles. One bowler leaking runs will be the difference in a tight contest.” Recollecting his conversation with Erapalli Prasanna, he wrote the Indian legend would spin the ball hard, try to hit the batter on the pads often, get him thinking about the spinning ball, and then trap him on the crease with a straight one.
“Line, he (Prasanna) said, was optional, length was mandatory. He explained to me that he would lay the seam a bit flatter than for the traditional off spinner and then impart a higher number of rotations on the ball that would make the ball drift like an off spinner but, once it landed on the leather, it would skid on with the arm giving the impression that it had gone ‘the other way’.
“As the leader of the spin attack, Nathan Lyon will need to take pages out of his book and show the way.” Chappell, however, said that Australia will also have issues to iron out.
“David Warner is in patchy form and needs to improve his Test record in India; Usman Khawaja, Alex Carey, Travis Head and Cameron Green will be tested against better quality spin than they encountered in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“Marcus Labuschagne will be facing his first big test in the subcontinent; and Steve Smith’s recent batting tweaks will be examined more keenly than against the West Indies, South Africa and in the BBL,” he wrote.
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