Brett’s watch list: Key players from India vs Australia first Test
Cricketing giants India and Australia will square off against each other in one of the fiercest cricketing rivalries - the Border-Gavaskar Trophy - starting from December 17. One of the most anticipated Test series, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has duly been a bystander to some breathtaking performances over the years, be it on an individual ground or even a collective effort.
For India, it gives them the opportunity to do the unthinkable, as none of the two teams have won the trophy three times in a row. For the Aussies, their honour is at stake after losing the Test series in 2018 at home.
I, for one, have rightly enjoyed my participation in the historic series, but it’s time to look at what lies ahead.
So here are two players from each team who I think will be in the spotlight during the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar series.
Captain Virat Kohli has had a quiet year so far, but as he prepares himself for his final game of 2020, I reckon we are on the verge of something special. The Adelaide Oval has always been Virat’s hunting ground and the fact that he has scored three centuries at the venue (more than any other venue in Australia) further outlines why Australia can have trouble in getting him out. Apart from Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins, not many of the current Australian bowlers have had much success against the Indian skipper, and it would be interesting to see how the Aussies lay their gameplan.
Steve Smith is the highest run-scorer for Australia (from the current squad) in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and since marking his comeback in 2019, the former captain has accumulated 1028 runs at the average of 73.43, including three centuries and five fifties from nine Tests. Smith just loves troubling the Indian bowling line-up. The last time he squared off against Kohli’s men in a Test series at home (2014-15), he had garnered 769 runs at an average of 128.16. Needless to say, he will be Australia’s biggest weapon.
It’s hard to find a suitable adjective for a stout Cheteshwar Pujara. For someone who played more than 1000 deliveries against Australia at their own turf last time out (2018-19), I feel Australia captain Tim Paine needs to work on his strategies. One just cannot afford to give Pujara enough room to get into his groove, because let’s face it, once he gets into the zone, you need a miracle ball to send him back to the pavilion.
Nathan Lyon has a fabulous record against the Indian batsmen. He is, in fact, the only Australian bowler to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara at Adelaide in Tests. He might leak runs in the process but he has time and again given his team important breakthroughs. What further outlines his importance is his numbers against the Indian captain, Virat Kohli, who he has dismissed seven times in Test cricket - more than any other bowler. Hence, it comes as no surprise that he has been given more opportunity to bowl against Kohli as compared to other bowlers.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / William West