India vs Australia: Key Battles and biggest talking points of the series!

India will take on Australia in their own backyard for the four-match Test series starting on 23rd February in Pune and this can easily be called as the ‘Clash of the Titans’ without any second thoughts or arguments.

Virat Kohli’s men stretched their undefeated streak to 19 consecutive Test matches with a win over Bangladesh by 208 runs in the one-off Test match played in Hyderabad. Kohli has registered 15 Test wins as captain in 23 matches, which is the joint second-highest number of wins after 23 games. Former Australian skipper Steve Waugh tops that list with 17 victories.

India also completed their 6 consecutive series triumphs, they surpassed their best streak in Test cricket going past the previous record of five series wins in 2008-10 under MS Dhoni. Since August 2015, India has won away series against Sri Lanka and West Indies, and have beaten South Africa, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh at home. With Kangaroos touring India for four-Test series, the hosts have a great chance to extend this winning bandwagon.

Whereas, after a brief slump of form in the sub-continent region against Sri Lanka followed with a disappointing performance versus South Africa at home, the Australians get back to the winning ways in Test cricket against Pakistan. Steve Smith’s army will be eyeing to avenge the defeat of the 2013 tour where the visitors lost the series from India by 4-0. Team India convincingly drubbed the Aussies and completed the whitewash.

Despite their recent dominance and previous track-record on home soil, the Indian team will not make a mistake of taking the Aussies lightly. Both sides will put everything at stake to establish their supremacy in cricket’s longer format. In this article, we will look a take at some of the key battles which promise to offer more than expected in the upcoming Test fest.

 

Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith

These two batsmen are undoubtedly the biggest bets in Test cricket at the moment. Virat Kohli and Steven Smith are both immensely successful young captains who are destined to achieve big things in the future. Recently, Kohli became the first batsman in the history of Test cricket to claim four double hundreds in as many series. In the process, he surpassed the legendary Sir Don Bradman and Rahul Dravid, both of whom had three double hundreds in successive series.

About a year back, Kohli was easily called as the best batsman in ODI cricket, but since July, the Indian skipper has switched modes and scored heavily for Team India in whites. In 54 Test matches, the 28-year old cricketer has scored 4451 runs at an impressive average of 51.75. He has also hit 16 hundreds and 14 fifties in 92 Test innings. However, playing against Australia brings out the best from the Indian captain, he has scored 1276 runs in 12 Tests at an average of over 60 against Kangaroos. Are you listening Starc and Hazlewood?

In terms of statistics, Steven Smith seems to hold the edge over his Indian counterpart in Test cricket. Smith has scored 4752 runs in his 50 Test outings for Australia at an outstanding average of 60.15. He has scored 17 hundreds in the longer format along with 20 half-centuries. But, interestingly, Smith averages reach a mind-boggling figure of 93 while playing against India. The 27-year old has scored 930 runs in 6 Tests against India. Well, Ashwin and Jadeja has a huge task on their hands!

 

Ravichandran Ashwin vs Mitchell Starc

We all know how important it is to pick up those 20 wickets in Test cricket to win a match. This makes the role of a strike bowler extremely crucial in the Test format where they lead the baton for their respective sides. Both Ravichandran Ashwin and Mitchell Starc are expected to play the role of the bowling spearheads in the upcoming four-Test series. After dismissing Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest bowler in world cricket to claim 250 Test wickets in just 45 matches.

Ravi Ashwin

 

Once again against Australia, Ashwin will be India’s go-to bowler to break partnerships or to unsettle the visitors. The 30-year old boasts off a magnificent tally of 254 wickets in 45 Tests at an imposing strike-rate of 51.5 coupled with 24 fifers. Ashwin is likely to play the biggest role if Virat Kohli’s men want to repeat the brilliant feat of 2013 tour.

Post-Mitchell Johnson’s retirement, Mitchell Starc has emerged as the next big thing in Australian cricket who has produced some legendary quick bowlers over the years. Blessed with a tall and sturdy frame, Starc’s menacing pace and greater control of swing are enough to spread fears in the minds of the best of the batters in any conditions.

In 34 Tests, Starc has picked up 143 scalps at a brilliant strike-rate of 49.6. In his last Test series against Pakistan, the 27-year old pacer picked up 14 wickets on his home soil in 3 Tests. If Australia wants to turn the tide this time against India, they would desperately want Starc to fire big-time!

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