If India doesn’t land the first punch by clinching the opening day-night Test against Australia, the going will get very tough for the visitor in the absence of skipper Virat Kohli, feels former national coach Anil Kumble.
India will start the Border-Gavaskar Test series with the day-nighter at Adelaide, from December 17, and Kumble feels that the match will be the “biggest challenge” for India. Kohli will return home after the opening Test for the birth of his first child.
“If we can stay ahead in the first Test match then India has a great chance to repeat what they did in the last Australia tour,” Kumble said during the Mutual Funds annual conclave ‘The Winners’ Circle’ organised by L&T Financial Services.
"Although with [Steven] Smith and [David] Warner coming back [after their ball-tampering bans the last time] and then Virat [Kohli] missing the three Test matches will obviously be a big factor for India. But having said that, there's enough ability within the team, be it batting or bowling."
Bowling at par
The Adelaide game, the first of the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy, will be the first time India is playing a pink-ball Test – as the day-night games are referred to – away from home. India’s only previous pink-ball Test was against Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019.
Kumble feels India’s fast bowling attack is on par with Australia. "The bowling - we probably match our fast bowling to their fast bowling," Kumble said. "The batting again matches, [but] I think we are ahead [of Australia]. So if we can get ahead in the pink-ball Test match - which obviously is Australia's strength: they've done really well in Adelaide whenever they have played a pink-ball Test; so if India can sort of get ahead against Australia in the first Test, then I will back India. But if that doesn't [happen], then it is going to be a tough ask without Virat as well in the next three [Tests]."
Meanwhile, Rahul Dravid, who was also part of the webinar, said the Indian batsmen had to try and emulate what Pujara had done during the 2018-19 trip. Pujara, who scored 521 runs and faced 1258 deliveries, was instrumental in India winning a landmark Test series Down Under.
"Who is going to be our Pujara from last time?," Dravid, the head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), asked. "I'm saying [that because] Pujara scored 500-plus runs last time, so you are going to need one of your batsmen to repeat that. Either it is going to be Pujara himself - obviously, it can't be Kohli because he is not going to be there for the whole tour - but you are going to need one of your batsmen at least in my opinion over the four Test matches to get you something like 500 runs.
"I do believe we have got a bowling attack that can take 20 wickets in those conditions. They will be challenging conditions."
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