Sunday 17 December 2017 / 03:01 PM

WHY AUSTRALIA CAN SHOCK THE DOUBTERS IN INDIA

Let’s be honest, Australia’s chances of winning in India amount to naught and we might as well etch in a 4-0 drubbing right now. But, before reality ensues, let’s spice things up and give a few left-field reasons why Australia could surprise.

Mitchell Starc

Australia’s spearhead is the X-factor in the series, which sounds silly because he’s the most feared paceman in the world. However, on pitches expected to favour turn, Starc has been somewhat overlooked with attention focused on the spinners.

Starc starred with an astounding 24 wickets during the three-match series in Sri Lanka last year to prove he can perform herculean feats on the most sedate pitches. He’s clearly the best quick in the series and speculation suggests the pitches used across the Tests won’t be blatant manufactured turners like those Australia encountered four years ago.

If there is a hint of movement on offer, Starc could swing – quite literally – the series Australia’s way.

The Marsh brothers

Was it a coincidence that Australia went on a four-Test winning streak once the Marsh brothers – forever maligned – were out of the team? Well, the bad news for those who treat the Marshes like a punching bag is that the Western Australian pair are likely to play in the first Test.

Shaun Marsh, the temperamental batsman, is a confirmed starter, while Mitch – the allrounder who has shown almost no batting pedigree in Test cricket – is set to be selected ahead of Glenn Maxwell, another tortured cricket talent.

Flipping the script, though, how about if the Marsh brothers actually play to their abilities? Shaun has a good record in the subcontinent (albeit a limited sample consigned to playing in Sri Lanka) and is undoubtedly one of Australia’s best players against spin.

Shaun has been a tease for more than 15 years and it’s hard for jaded Australian fans to invest any faith in him. Now aged 33 and a family man, Shaun has seemingly matured, manifesting in a more steely approach in his batting before the aforementioned injury. If his talents can memorably mesh in this series, then Australia will have much-needed depth behind superstars Steve Smith and David Warner.

Mitch hasn’t played first-class cricket since breaking down with injury against South Africa in the second Test in Hobart, so he’s a major gamble despite performing well in Australia’s tour match. Mitch has been more of a bowling all-rounder in his Test career thus far and his reliable seamers were undeniably missed against Pakistan, even though Australia won the series relatively comfortably.

If his explosive batting comes off – admittedly, a big if – Marsh has the potential to change the course of the match in a session.

Australia’s spin tandem

Stephen O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon worked well in tandem during Australia’s last Test against Pakistan in Sydney. Of course, India’s wealth of batting talent presents a far more formidable challenge than the temperamental Pakistanis, but signs were good between Australia’s two frontline spinners.

With his accuracy and an ability to hold up an end, O’Keefe works well in tandem and allows off-spinner Lyon to have more of a licence to be bold and toss the ball up. Undoubtedly, the Indian batsmen have little regard for Australia’s spinners, but that contempt could backfire if O’Keefe and Lyon – both experienced bowlers – survive the onslaught.

Australian resilience

Australia has long been feted for their mental toughness and fortitude. Those hallowed characteristics are what defines their very best players and leaders of yesteryear. For inspiration, Australia can take heed from the 1995 tour of the West Indies, when Mark Taylor led an unfancied squad besieged by injuries. The West Indies were admittedly on the downward spiral but were still firm favourites, having not lost a Test series at home for 15 years.

Australia gutted a famous 2-1 series victory that was the harbinger for their eventual utter domination of international cricket. The defining image of the series was a batted and bruised Steve Waugh defying the West Indies pace attack.

Perhaps it’s folly to compare that team, which had a slew of stars, to Australia’s current motley crew, but a strong showing in India would similarly provide a major fillip for the Steve Smith era. For that to happen, Australia are going to need numerous players to get their hands dirty – much like Waugh et al.

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About the author

Tristan Lavalette

Tristan is a freelance journalist based in Perth. He has written for The Guardian, ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Previously he was a newspaper journalist for almost a decade.

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