Gavaskar: Australia a different kettle of fish with Smith, Warner

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar feels Steve Smith and David Warner will be key to Australia's performance in the upcoming four-match Test series.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar feels the Australian bowling attack has an edge over India for their left-right combination.   -  FILE PHOTO/PRASHANT NAKWE

India great Sunil Gavaskar, the first man to score 10,000 Test runs, feels Steve Smith and David Warner will be key to Australia's performance in the forthcoming four-match Test series at home against India. In an interview with Sportstar, Gavaskar also praised India’s pace attack, adding that he expects the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to be a thrilling face-off.

Excerpts:

On why the 2018-19 Test series win was special

One of the teams that has been very tough to beat overseas has been Australia. India has beaten the West Indies in the 1970s, they have gone and beaten Pakistan in 2003-04, so Australia had been the last frontier in some ways. That's what they achieved a couple of years back – it was a stupendous win... Absolutely fantastic for the Indian team to have done what other teams had come close to doing but had not done. The previous teams have managed to draw a series but not win it, which only amplifies their (India’s) achievement.

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On whether the India-Australia rivalry began with the 1979 series

That is possible because in 1977-78, (Kerry) Packer had taken away most of the Australian players. However, by 1979, World Series Cricket had ceased to exist because of the understanding between Channel 9 and Cricket Australia. So, 1979 was the first time Australia played with both sets of players – those who took part in World Series and those who were available for Australia at the time. The matches were very closely fought, too... Before that, when the two teams played, Australia were the winners, even when they were playing in India. They won in 1959-60, in 1964 and 1969-70. So, that’s why you could say the 1979 series was the start of the India-Australia rivalry. That said, the 1964 Test match where India beat Australia (by two wickets) at the Brabourne Stadium was also closely contested.

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On whether Tim Paine’s side is as aggressive as previous teams

On the field against Australia, you are always in a fight to the finish. No match is won or lost till the final ball has been bowled. That’s been the case with just about every Australian team you play. So I don’t think Tim Paine’s team is any different from its predecessors. Having said that, there were no verbals when we played – probably the only time we experienced that was in the mid-1980s – otherwise there was hardly anything uttered between the two teams.

On his expectations from the Test series

I am expecting it to be a closely fought series. Australia will be a different kettle of fish with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner. Marnus Labuschagne, having made the progress that he has in the last one year, will be a big challenge, too. So, the Australian batting this series will be much stronger compared to 2018-19 when not one Australian batsman scored a hundred. But our bowlers have got the capability of getting these top batsmen out also. It should be a thrilling face-off.

Steve Smith ducks under a bouncer from Stuart Broad at The Ashes in 2019.   -  FILE PHOTO/AP

 

On Steve Smith daring the Indian pacers to bowl short

No one is ever ready for the short ball! A good short ball will trouble the best of batsmen. Nobody can say “I'm ready.” Mohammed Shami in particular has a fabulous bouncer. If he gets it right on target, then you can be pretty certain that not too any batsmen will be able to negotiate him. He is not very tall and his short ball will come skidding at you around your shoulder and head, and that’s the most difficult delivery to play. If his rhythm is right, he will not be an easy bowler to play.

Mohammed Shami was lethal with the pink ball against Bangladesh last year.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

 

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On which pace attack has the edge

I would think Australia, with the left-right combination in the pace department, offers a lot more variety. India, on the other hand, has four right-arm pacers. So that’s a big plus for the host.

On whether the lack of game time will hinder Cheteshwar Pujara

Ideally, the Indian team plays two-three first-class games before playing the first Test, (which) helps everybody get into the groove. Cheteshwar hasn’t played competitive cricket since March. So for him to get ready for the series, those two or three matches would have been a big plus. But he is the kind of player who doesn’t get affected by anything. He has done his practice. He would have used the bowling machine. He would’ve done everything to prepare for these four Tests. I don’t think too many people work as hard as Cheteshwar does on his game. He will be ready.

On whether India should play R. Ashwin in Adelaide

I would like to go with R. Ashwin in the playing XI. He has got the experience of being to Australia a couple of times already. He has got that drive... So, he will be a sure starter for me in Adelaide. Maybe in Sydney I would consider including both spinners in the playing XI. Over some time, we have seen that on these drop-in pitches, the ball does tend to help the spinners towards the third-fourth day. So, yes, spinners will definitely come into play. But the early damage will be done by the pacers...

On the significance of Rohit Sharma in Tests

He will be very important because he is going to open the batting. For the Indian team to get off to a good start, he is going to be crucial. If he gets going and if Mayank – Mayank (Agarwal) and Labuschagne are the two most improved batsmen over the last couple of years – can bat the way he did against the South Africans at home last year, then it makes the job that much easier for the batsmen to follow.

On split captaincy for India

It could happen. At the moment, we are focused on the Australian tour. It’s something that’s to be considered once the tour Down Under is done and dusted because, particularly in these Covid-19 times, it’s not too smart to think too far ahead. For now, let’s hope our team comes back with flying colours.

India's first ODI against Australia will be telecast live at 8am, November 27, on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six channels

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