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After two months of action-packed cricket in the Middle East, the spotlight now moves to the toughest and enduring format of the game as India travels down under to lock horns with the number one Test team Australia on their home ground. While all eyes remain on the Border Gavaskar Trophy, India will also be facing the 2015 World Champions in the limited-overs format as the tour begins with a T20 series in November and is scheduled to go on till January. As cricket continues to rejuvenate post the COVID-forced break, India's tour of Australia is expected to completely overshadow several series including the one between current World Champions England and a battling South Africa and West Indies' tour of New Zealand.
India had last visited Australia in 2019, when they faced a hurting and resurging side under Justin Langer's new era which had to overcome the haunting of the Sandpapergate. When the two giants of cricket took the field, it wasn't just the normal Team India fighting for pride and victory. It was the Men in Blue under roaring Virat Kohli - who no matter what, gave it back - and brought into play his aggressive team which hunted to kill.
Kohli's attacking mode reflected in the squad selection as a spin-friendly Team India otherwise turned into pace dominant with the likes of yorker maestro Jasprit Bumrah, second-innings hero Mohammed Shami, and raring Umesh Yadav. On the other hand, Australia were daunted by the absence of their stars on any day - David Warner and Steve Smith. With such conditions when Kohli's tigers faced Paine's kangaroos, the result was palpable. The Men in Blue emerged victorious and etched their names onto history by defeating Australia for the first time on their home soil.
However, times have changed. As Kohli's tigers gear up to face Tim Paine & Co. in the Border Gavaskar trophy, the Team India skipper will have to be wary. The reasons, again being obvious, are firstly, the return of fiery munition - David Warner & Steve Smith - in their arsenal and secondly, their thirst for vengeance. There is a third factor that sways the psychological advantage towards Australia which is the Men in Blue will be without their leader in three Test matches. This comes as the BCCI has approved Virat Kohli's paternity leave and he will be returning back to base after the first day-night Test in Adelaide. Taking note of development, Australia's Justin Langer has already expressed that India will surely miss the 'best player in the world'.
However, while Team India will surely miss its skipper, the inclusion of IPL champion Rohit Sharma might just be the morale booster. After being snubbed in the squad selection due to injury, the Mumbai skipper has been included in the Test side after deliberation and is expected to regain match fitness just in time for the Test series. Despite Virat Kohli's absence, the World Test Championship table-toppers - India - has the artillery which boasts of some great names in Test cricket. These include the modern-day incarnation of Rahul Dravid - Cheteshwar Pujara - vice captain Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari, and veterans Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin. The squad also includes some young blood after series of impressive performances in the IPL and the domestic circuit.
If India seems to have posed tough questions to Australia in the previous tour, the hosts might have found the right answers just in time. Announcing a 17-man squad for the Test series, the Kangaroos have brought in uncapped all-rounder Cameron Green and batsman Will Pucovski. Seems like what Rohit Sharma does in ODIs, Pucovski does in Tests. The Australian young gun is coming off two consecutive double centuries in the Sheffield Shield and might just be Tim Paine's trump card in the series. Moreover, the squad also includes Marnus Labuschagne, who was in sublime form, just before the COVID break and the squad's pace attack looks as strong as ever. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, and Sean Abbott will give it everything to earn themselves a spot in the playing XI.
As India and Australia lock horns in pure whites in December, it will not just be about Australia's vengeance or India's desire to write history, and nor will it be about winning the Border Gavaskar Trophy. Because this time, there's something much bigger on the line - The World Test Championship. India currently sits atop the World Test Championship with 360 points whereas Australia is just below the Men in Blue with 296 points. The teams also face the challenge of COVID-19 and the taxing bio-bubble which is expected to take a toll on the players.
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