The Test series between Australia and India played anywhere transcends well beyond the on-field gameplay. With India winning their first Test series in Australia back in 2018-19, the upcoming rubber consisting of four more Tests would be even more significant. Tim Paine’s men, who India embarrassed the last time, will fight tooth and nail to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Surprisingly, the heated exchanges and the fiery displays have not started yet and the players have bonded well in the white-ball series. In the ODI series, the likes of KL Rahul, Aaron Finch, and Yuzvendra Chahal had some friendly exchanges; however, all could turn into some verbal wars alongside some highly competitive and mouth-watering rivalries. It is precisely what the fans will savour too, without a doubt.
We take a look at five rivalries to watch out for in the India-Australia Test series:
Nathan Lyon vs Virat Kohli:
Even though Virat Kohli will return home after the first Test, there is no questioning what he could do in the only Test he plays. At the opposing team, off-spinner Nathan Lyon would be licking his lips and the off-spinner will have a massive role to play if Australia has to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. With 21 wickets, the 33-year old was the highest wicket-taker when India visited Australia the last time and won the series.
The New South Wales finger spinner has dismissed the Indian captain seven times in Test cricket, the most times that any bowler has removed him. Left-arm speedster Mitchell Starc might have bagged the most wickets with the pink ball, but Lyon will equally find himself under the spotlight. The veteran spin-bowler has to come good against the visiting skipper for Australia to gain the upper hand early on.
Cheteshwar Pujara vs all the Australian bowlers:
Cheteshwar Pujara was arguably the thorn in Australia’s way when they lost the Test series to India for the first time at home in 2018/19. The right-handed batsman had nearly become unshakable, putting a degree of performance rarely seen in the Australian shores. The 521 runs in four Tests, earned him the man of the match series and deserved it entirely.
With Australia sticking to the same set of bowlers this time too – Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Mitchell Starc, all of them have to devise a plan to break the Saurashtra batsman’s resistance as early as possible. The extra responsibility on him after Virat Kohli’s departure following the first Test could make them perform even better. Thus, the home side’s bowlers have to stay on point against Pujara.
Steve Smith vs Jasprit Bumrah:
While the likes of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have bowled to Steve Smith in Tests and have had their fair share of success too; however, the former Australian captain is yet to face Jasprit Bumrah. As much as Jasprit Bumrah must be prepared to face the number one Test batsman on his soil, Smith also needs to be wary of the Indian seamer.
Bumrah ended up as the highest wicket-taker when India won the Test series down under in 2018/19. The 27-year old might be relatively new to the longest format of the game; however, he is every bit effective and dangerous a bowler. Bumrah remains an efficient bowler with the new ball as well as the old, capable of dismissing any set batsmen. Hence, the battle between Smith and Bumrah promises to be an enticing one.
Marnus Labuschagne vs all Indian bowlers:
Australia’s number three Marnus Labuschagne has witnessed a meteoric rise in Test cricket ever since the second Ashes Test in 2019. In 14 Tests so far, Marnus Labuschagne has 1459 runs at a jaw-dropping average of 63.43 along with four centuries and eight fifties. It might be worth remembering that Labuschagne played in the fourth Test during the 2018-19 series against India, facing 95 balls for 38 runs, which was an incredible effort.
Fast forward to the present; the 26-year old is a batsman with a much-improved technique and could well prove to be the difference between the two sides. The fact that the opening combination looks shaky makes his role much more essential as he could be facing the hard new ball very early. Marnus’ partnership with his idol Steve Smith would also be one of the most mouth-watering prospects to look forward to.
Tim Paine vs Rishabh Pant:
Australian Test captain Tim Paine and the visiting keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant shared an epic banter during the 2018/19 series. While the words did not amount to anything serious, Australia’s keeper-batsman could not back up his words with the performance with the bat. Moreover, Paine became the first Australian captain to endure a series loss to India at home.
In contrast, Rishabh Pant had a series to remember as he was not only magnificent behind the stumps but also performed well with the bat. In four games, the southpaw mustered 350 runs at 58.33 with an unbeaten century. Pant also took 20 catches behind the stumps, playing a significant role in India clinching their first Test series victory in Australia. The upcoming rubber will certainly witness the two keeper-batsmen resume their rivalry.