Less than 24 hours later, the Indian team led by Virat Kohli will march into the Adelaide Oval to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy; which they successfully defended in Australia in 2018-19 after reclaiming it in the 2017 home series. The first of the four-match series will also be the first time both the sides face off in a day-night contest to be played with the pink ball.
While the visitors are having a happy headache as multiple players are vying – and all good enough – for limited spots in the line-up, Justin Langer is looking to fill the voids created by the injured players by the backups of the original backups. The hosts would not want to concede another series, another humiliating home defeat to India, and a positive beginning for that would be in Adelaide.
Australia vs India, 2020-21: 1st Test, Adelaide – Australia Predicted XI
Joe Burns might not even have got a place in the eleven if incumbent opener, David Warner and young sensation, Will Pucovski were available. Captain Tim Paine has said that Burns isn’t lacking confidence and is ready to face the Indian bowlers despite not having a good time with the bat at all in his recent matches.
Since the resumption of cricket in the pandemic era, Burns has the highest score of 29 in 9 first-class innings- including three ducks. Although he averaged 68 against Sri Lanka and 50 versus Pakistan in the previous home series’, facing Indian pacers with the pink ball will be a much more challenging task. The right-hander has to make the opportunity count as both, as at least Pucovski, if not Warner as well, is likely to be fit for the second match.
Head coach, Justin Langer confirmed ahead of the match that Marnus Labuschagne, who was thought to be an option to open, will not be moved from his number 3 position. Paine hinted, in vague terms that Matthew Wade could be seen as a likely candidate to open alongside Burns.
The left-hander has opened for Australia in 21 limited-overs matches, however, doing it in the longer format against the Indian seamers will be a completely different ask. Wade is known to be a tough and robust batsman, as Paine said, he will not shy away from any obstacle for the team. The southpaw made a brilliant comeback in the Test side with a couple of centuries in the Ashes last year. Another alternative is Marcus Harris.
Before going into Steve Smith, the Indian bowlers have to come up against Australia’s dummy Smith- Marnus Labuschagne. He replaced Smith as a concussion substitute in the Ashes last year against England, and the right-hander grabbed his opportunity with both hands and ran away with a fixed spot in the line-up.
The right-hander notched 4 consecutive fifties in the Ashes, and just kept getting better and better- two hundreds versus Pakistan followed by two more tons and three fifties against the Kiwis. Labuschagne was the leading run-scorer in 2019.
The pertinent question in the Ashes in England was: ‘How do you get Steve Smith out?’ The right-hander kept scoring and scoring; frankly, that’s what Steve Smith does. He did seem unsettled against the bouncers by Neil Wagner earlier in the year, however, with his dedication to improving as a batsman, it would be safe to assume that he would have found a way to tackle it against Indian bowlers; against whom he averages 84 in Test cricket with 7 hundreds in 10 Test matches.
Ahead of the ODI series, he claimed to have ‘found his hands’, and the right-hander proved it by smacking two thunderous hundreds in the ODI series. With Ravindra Jadeja – who was most likely to trouble Smith with his left-arm off-spin taking the ball away from the batsman – out of the first Test, the Indian bowlers should find some method to dismiss the Aussie legend soon, otherwise, Virat Kohli’s team would be spending a lot of time in the field.
Travis Head is touted as the future captain of Australia- he led the Australia A side in the warmup match against India despite the presence of Tim Paine in the eleven. Head averaged 49 in 2019 and is the strength of Australia’s lower-order. The left-hander is coming off two mammoth hundreds for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield matches. Head also provides a decent part-time off-spin option.
Justin Langer said that if Cameron Green is deemed fit ahead of the first Test, he will play. The all-rounder suffered a concussion while bowling after being hit back by Jasprit Bumrah in the practice game.
The coach asserted that Green has earned the right to be in the national side on the basis of his performances in domestic cricket. If Matthew Wade is promoted to open, Green is likely to get the left-hander’s spot in the middle-order. The medium-pacer can be asked to bowl at times to give the other frontline quicks some rest. He averages 55 with the bat and 21 with the ball in first-class cricket.
Tim Paine(c and wk)
There is a lot of uncertainties around Tim Paine’s future as Steve Smith is now eligible to captain Australia again, and Paine hasn’t scored many runs to defend his position. His average of 24 in 2019 is well below what could be expected from a captain of an international team.
However, never to forget, Paine is the only Aussie skipper to retain the Ashes in England in the last 18 years- not Ricky Ponting, not Michael Clarke, not Steve Smith, it is Tim Paine. He took the leadership of Australia in the difficult circumstances in South Africa amidst the sandpaper gate. His only home series loss was against India a couple of years ago, and the wicket-keeper, if decides to call his time soon, he would want to have sweet revenge before that.
Australia’s Test vice-captain, Pat Cummins was given an extra rest from the third ODI and the T20I series to be fresh for the Test series against India. The numero uno ICC Test bowler was the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes last year and he averaged just a brilliant 20 in 2019. He was Australia’s most threatening pacer against India in their previous encounter two years ago. Cummins is more than handy with the bat.
Mitchell Starc has rejoined the squad after pulling out from the last two T20Is owing to personal reasons. The left-arm seamer would be the first to launch the Aussie attack with the ball against the Indian openers.
Starc averaged 20 with the ball in 2019 and took 4 five-wicket hauls in 8 matches. The pacer hasn’t been at his lethal best in the white-ball matches against India, however, Starc does level up his game in Test cricket, especially at home; he averaged 17 against Pakistan and New Zealand in his last two home series. Starc and Cummins provide a good batting depth to the hosts.
Australia’s greatest off-spinner, Nathan Lyon has troubled India in the past; he has picked 85 wickets against India- joint-most with England. Lyon in his last Test against Kane Williamson’s side took a five-for in both the innings.
Josh Hazlewood doesn’t get as much attention as Starc and Cummins do, as the pacer does his job silently and departs. Hazlewood averaged 23.09 in 2019- his best in any calendar year. The lanky seamer, who is renowned to have attributes of the great Glenn McGrath, is likely to share the new ball with Starc, and will invariably trouble the Indian batters with his accurate lines and lengths.