Sunday 17 December 2017 / 03:15 PM

RESURGENT AUSSIES SET FOR TOUGHEST TEST

The Australian Test team are showing signs of resurgence on the back of their 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the recently completed Test series.

Following the embarrassment of the Hobart defeat to South Africa, chairman of selectors Rod Marsh stepped down and the new selection panel, led by interim chairman Trevor Hohns, has embarked on a rebuilding the Australian Test side, adding the likes of Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw to the line-up

The change in mentality and personnel saw Steve Smith’s men rebound from Hobart to claim the last Test against South Africa in Adelaide before proceeding to thrash Pakistan in the second half of the summer.

While the series victory over Pakistan was comprehensive and dominant, the real challenge for Steve Smith’s men still awaits them.

India.

Steve Waugh’s final frontier, and right now the toughest test in world cricket for any touring side, let alone the rebuilding Australians.

At first glance the signs do not look good for Australia: they have lost nine Tests in a row in the subcontinent, including a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sri Lanka only a few months ago.

On top of a poor recent away record, they come up against the number one side in the world in red-hot form. The Indians are looking ominous having swept aside England 4-0 in a five-match series, even after losing four tosses. Virat Kohli’s side are on an unbeaten run of 19 Test matches and are a formidable side in home conditions.

Kohli himself is churning out runs for fun, and dominating opposition attacks. With the likes of Murali Vijay, Chesteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul and even youngster Karun Nair – fresh from a triple hundred in only his third Test – for back-up, the Indian batting line up will be tough for the Australians to crack. India’s batsmen play their home conditions extremely well, are adept against spin and reverse swing, and full of confidence after amassing huge totals against England.

Australia’s bowlers, particularly the spinners, will be under immense pressure from the Indian batsmen. Nathan Lyon will need to improve on his underwhelming record in Asia to lead the spin attack with support from the likes of Steve O’Keefe, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Swepson and even Glenn Maxwell. Managing his bowling resources will be a challenge for Smith in what will be very trying conditions.

Australia will need to make sure they get their team selection right and find the ideal balance between playing to their own strengths, and picking a side based on the conditions. They will also need to overcome some mental scarring – not only from the Sri Lanka tour, but their last nightmare tour to India where they were whitewashed against the backdrop of the ‘Homework-gate’ scandal.

The advantage for newcomers into the side like Renshaw and Handscomb is they were not part of the previous horror trips to Asia. However, a lack of experience playing world-class spin bowling in challenging conditions will count against them.

Ravi Ashwin is currently ranked as the No.1 Test bowler in the world and this is largely on the back of his strong record in Asia, and particularly at home in India. Finding a way to combat Ashwin, and his more than capable sidekick Ravindra Jadeja, will be one of the toughest tasks for the Australian batsmen.

With their batsmen piling on huge scores and setting up games, it allows the likes of Ashwin and Jadeja to strangle the opposition batsmen. The Australians can’t allow this to happen, otherwise it will be a long tour.

They will be looking to senior batsmen Smith and the in-form David Warner to lead the way against the Indian spinners, and for Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon to find a way to keep Kohli and co. under wraps.

One thing is for certain: it will not be an easy tour for the Australians. But it might just be the best way to see if the rebuild is heading in the right direction.

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About the author

Akash Fotedar

Akash is a Perth-based sportswriter and journalist who has come on board with Commentary Box Sports to provide expert cricket, AFL and tennis coverage. An experienced cricketer, Akash has played three seasons in England as an overseas pro and is still active in grade cricket in WA.

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