A confident and wiser Australia is well-equipped to take the fight to India in a series that could literally be decided by a coin-toss, according to former Test bowler Ryan Harris.
Winning in India has taken on Holy Grail proportions for Australia, whose last series victory in the subcontinent was a 2-1 triumph in 2004.
Since then, Australia have lost all four series there but came close in a 2-1 tussle in the last one in 2017.
With the core of the 2016/17 squad remaining but embellished with more batting depth, Harris said Pat Cummins’ team had every reason to fancy their chances in the four-Test series starting in Nagpur on Thursday.
“Much of the squad were over there last time so I think that will be a big plus in terms of experience,” Harris told Reuters.
“That will definitely help them.
“The momentum is good. The majority of them are going over there in form.
“I think they’re in a really good position if they’re going to do it with this squad they have.”
Harris said Australia’s positive mindset under Cummins’s leadership also put them in good stead for a long and taxing tour on vastly different pitches to home.
“He’s a pretty positive sort of person,” he said of Cummins.
“That’s really rubbed off since he’s taken over.
“They’re a tight group and I think the teams that I played in that had success were the same.”
However, much will need to go right for the world’s top-ranked test team to beat India at home.
The toss will be crucial, suggested Harris, given India’s successful blueprint of batting big and then dismantling teams with spin on crumbling pitches in the fourth innings.
“If India’s batters put 350 or 400 on the board first up, you’re almost in survival mode to try to save the game, which is really hard to do,” said the 43-year-old Queenslander, who has coached Indian Premier League sides since his brief but exceptional 27-Test career wound up in 2015.
“You don’t see too many draws over there and I don’t see too many happening in this series, to be honest.”
With Australia pacer Josh Hazlewood to miss at least the first test with an Achilles injury, Harris said Scott Boland would be a good fit for Nagpur in a two-man pace attack with Cummins and two spinners in Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson.
Though India have plenty of bowling options in their extended squad, he felt injured paceman Jasprit Bumrah’s absence was a massive blow for Rohit Sharma’s team.
“With his reverse swing and bowling fast, there’s no doubt he will be missed. It would be like us not having Pat Cummins.”
Australia is top of the World Test Championship (WTC) table ahead of second-placed India and will seal a place in the final if they can avoid being whitewashed in the series.
However, even if Australia win the WTC final in London in June, Harris said their claim to be the world’s best test nation would be contestable without victory in India.
“It’s all well and good to win in your own conditions but if you’re going to be the world’s best team you need to win in India and then in England,” he said.
“That’s when they can sit back and say, ‘We are the best team in the world’.”