India are favourites to win the four-match Test series against Australia Down Under. Australia are without their star players in Steve Smith, David Warner due to the ball-tampering bans. And they have struggled of late in all formats without their talismanic duo. Hence, India are tipped by many to win their maiden Test series Down Under.
But contrary to the prediction, India can struggle to win the Test series and there are obvious reasons for it. Cricwizz takes a look at five reasons India cannot win the Test series Down Under.
The recent form of India in away Test series
In the last two away Test series against South Africa and England, India were tipped to beat the opponents, but they came back home with just two wins while losing six of them out of total 8 Tests. Any team at home is difficult to beat, and Australia with or without Warner-Smith will be a tough nut to crack.
Australia have always done well at home in the longer format, as they raise their game when their backs are against the wall. They would put up a tough fight against India. Although Australia’s batting will be weak, their bowling will be at full-strength, with Mitchell Starc back in the line-up. Australian bowlers can be more than handy for Indian batsmen who have a history of struggles against good pace-bowling unit overseas.
Virat Kohli is still a work-in-progress as a Test skipper
Kohli was immature as a captain in the last two away Test series. Had he learned his lessons from the two losses? It’s debatable as Kohli has his own style of leadership which is based more on instinct than common sense. How else you explain the omission of Ajinkya Rahane, C Pujara in the first few Tests in South Africa and England respectively and the inclusion of Kuldeep Yadav as a second spinner in pace-friendly conditions in the Lord’s Test. His field placings, team selections, bowling changes lack cricketing sense. Can Kohli not goof up this time?
India’s batting is inconsistent
Despite boasting of great batting talent, India are heavily dependent on their skipper Virat Kohli. If not for Kohli in England, India batting would have conveyed an embarrassing image of themselves. Their opening slots have been a game of musical chairs, with Murali Vijay and KL Rahul lacking consistency, while the in-form first-choice opener Prithvi Shaw is out due to injury.
C Pujara is confused whether to grind out bowlers or bat with intent, Rahane has not struck a ton in Tests since August 2017, while Rohit Sharma is trusted once again to translate his limited-overs success to Test cricket five years after his debut in this format. Rishabh Pant continues to bat like a T20 cricketer in this format, while India have a long tail.
India lack a genuine all-rounder
India had big hopes on all-rounder Hardik Pandya, but except a five-wicket haul in Nottingham Test, he did nothing of significance in the Test series in England. He was eventually dropped from the fifth Test as his batting frailties exposed the tailenders. Now, Pandya is out injured and India do not have a suitable replacement for the all-rounder’s spot.
An all-rounder is important in the Test line-up to give balance to the XI and pitch in as a fifth or sixth bowler or bat with the tailenders to add meat to the total. But India have not found a consistent all-rounder yet with Pandya continuing to flatter to deceive.
India have Ravindra Jadeja as the all-rounder, but his place in the XI is uncertain as India would go with one spinner in R Ashwin as two tweakers in Australian pitches will be a waste. So, India would have to hope Ashwin lets his bat do the talking while maintaining form with the ball.
A lack of genuine all-rounder in the series is going to hurt India and can prove to be the difference in the end results as Australia have the bankable Mitchell Marsh for the all-rounder’s spot.
India struggle with self-doubts
What can you say of a team who threw away winning opportunities many times in the Test series in England to go down 1-4? If India had seized the initiative and grabbed the chances, they would have been probably ended up winning the series.
But self-doubts, self-destruction saw India lose a couple of close Tests in England. India’s failure to finish off games cost them the series in England. And bad habits die hard.
Can Virat Kohli and Co rectify those mistakes against England? Can they play as a team and not rely on individual brilliance? Can the batting and bowling come together to destroy Australia Down Under and clinch their maiden Test series? Only time will tell.