Kolkata: Some fist pumping moments, a fair share of verbal duels and good quality cricket: That is what is expected when the top two test teams clash tomorrow February, 23 in Pune. India, the host team would be mighty pleased of their recent performances in Test cricket and would begin the series with a lot of confidence. Clearly the favourites, the Indians have been on a rampage in Test cricket of late as they have beaten good quality teams and have climbed up the ladder to reach the top spot in the Test rankings.
Under Virat Kohli, they have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The Aussies on the other hand, would be under a lot of pressure going into the series. They have had a mixed run in Test cricket recently and the men in the baggy green would love to replicate the success that the team under Ricky Ponting had achieved way back in the 2004 series. Nonetheless, defeating this Indian team would be a daunting task for any team, any day.
Both these heavyweight Test sides have a lot of star-studded players who would go up against each other. However, we at Sports Crunch, have sorted out five player battles in the Test series that would be worth a watch.
1) Virat Kohli vs Mitchell Starc: The best batsman of the Indian team against the best bowler from the Australian camp. There cannot be a bigger duel than this. Kohli, has been in terrific touch with the bat off-late, his four scintillating double centuries in consecutive Test series being an example. He is in such a form where he just cannot make any mistake when he holds the willow and takes guard to face a bowler. In such a red-hot form, it would be a good contest when someone like a Starc runs up to bowl to him. Starc, on his part has been in phenomenal form with the red cherry for Australia. Having an ability to swing the ball both ways, he has been Australia’s most successful pacer in recent times and his lethal in-swingers can go through the defence of any batsman in the game. Starc vs Kohli: An interesting contest is awaiting us.
2) David Warner vs Ravichandran Ashwin: Apart from Kohli, if there’s any batsman in world cricket right now who has been in a magical sort of form, it has to be the Aussie opener, Warner. The entertaining southpaw had a terrific IPL season last year and that seemed to have unleashed a new and a better version of Warner. Smashing hundreds and breaking records have been part of his daily routine. It would be interesting to see whether he could do the same when he is up against one of the best spinners in the world at the moment. A major reason for India’s success in Tests is Ashwin who has been in fine form with the ball. Consistency is something which one would associate with the tweaker as his deliveries are really difficult to pick, especially on the turning tracks in India. It would be a good contest between the bat and ball when Ashwin is up against Warner.
3) Ravindra Jadeja vs Steven Smith: Ashwin’s partner, Jadeja is perhaps the best left-arm spinner in India right now. Just like Ashwin, he has been quite consistent with the ball, picking up wickets at regular intervals. Accuracy is also something that has been a regular part of his bowling. Smith, the Aussie skipper, too has displayed good performances with the bat recently in Tests and has established himself as one of the mainstays of the Australian batting line-up. No wonder he is right at the top of the rankings of batsmen in Test cricket. Jadeja against the Aussie captain would be quite a contest to watch.
4) Josh Hazelwood vs Cheteshwar Pujara: To be honest, both these players are quite underrated. Hazelwood, has been consistently amongst the wickets for a long, long time now but his performances have been overshadowed by his fellow teammate Starc. With an ability to swing the ball at will, he would be a potent threat to any batting line-up. If there’s anyone from the Indian camp who is equally underrated as Josh, it has to be the Indian number 3 batsman Pujara. He has been in splendid form for India recently, but his performances too have been eclipsed by the performances of Kohli. He has been the silent performer for India and an ardent cricket lover would be keen to see him hog the limelight facing the likes of Hazelwood.
5) Nathan Lyon vs Ajinkya Rahane: Arguably the best spinner in the Australian camp, Lyon can create problems for any batsman on his day. He would look forward to do so when he bowls against Rahane, one of the key members of the Indian middle-order. Rahane, on his part hasn’t been in the best of forms in recent times in Test cricket. However he proved his mettle when he made a comeback into the Test team and scored a fluent 82 against Bangladesh. Whether he is able to carry on with the same touch when he faces the best Australian spinner would be a matter of interest.