Kolkata: The highly anticipated India vs Australia series is on the cards as both these teams have already started gearing up on what would be a clash of titans. While many believe that Indian skipper Virat Kohli would pose the biggest threat to the visiting Aussies, former Australian left-hander Mike Hussey is of the opinion that Australian star pacer Mitchell Starc would cause a lot of trouble to Kohli throughout the Test series. He also said that it would take a collective bowling effort from the Australian side to restrict India’s premier batsman from scoring big.
In an exclusive interview with the PTI, Hussey, who is also known as ,”Mr. Perfect ” said, “I think Starc is a brilliant bowler for the sub-continental conditions. He bowls at a genuine pace, can swing the new ball and is an excellent exponent of reverse swing. I am sure he will challenge Kohli throughout the series. It will, however, take a collective effort to stop Kohli, who has been phenomenal of late,”
When asked about the different challenges that Australian skipper Steve Smith would face, Hussey acknowledged the fact that the Indians were terrific players of spin bowling and Smith has to have patience with both his spinners- Nathan Lyon and Steve O’ Keefe.
The former Chennai Super Kings batsman who is also a veteran of 79 tests for Australia said, “He(Smith) has experience of playing in India, which is important both in Tests and at the IPL. I feel he needs to show a lot of faith and patience with his spinners and get the field right, with a nice balance of attacking and defending.”
If there’s someone from the Australian camp who has been in a “Kohli-like” form, it has to be none other than the left-handed slambang opener David Warner. Warner like Kohli, had a terrific IPL season where he led his team (Sunrisers Hyderabad) to their maiden title. And from then on, there was no looking for the Australian. Scoring hundreds and breaking records has been somewhat of a daily routine for him. However, Mike Hussey feels that it would be a different ball game for Steve Smith and David Warner who would still enjoy batting on these tracks. He said, “There is always a lot of pressure on Warner and Steve Smith to score big runs for Australia. The good thing is that they are both very hungry for runs and love batting. India will be a huge challenge for both players but I am sure they are very determined to have an impact on the series.”
A consistent batsman himself during his playing days, the versatile cricketer was pleased with Australia’s preparation in Dubai for the India series and highlighted the fact that this tour to the subcontinent has been one of Cricket Australia’s major area of focus. And he, was eagerly waiting for the Aussies to convert their hard work into consistent performances. He said, ”
“This tour of India has been a big focus for Cricket Australia for some time now and the preparation has been meticulous. Whether that transcends into performance on the field remains to be seen but the preparation has certainly been thorough.”
Australia would play a solitary three-day practice game against India A before they take the field against the hosts on the 23rd of February in Pune. Hussey, however wanted more practice games for the visitors which would enable them to prepare in a much better way. “I would have perhaps like to have seen a few more warm up matches in India to cap off the preparations” said Hussey.
A former teammate at the CSK in the IPL, Mike Hussey was well aware of the threats the Indian spin duo-Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja can pose. He believes that the Aussies need to have a proper plan chalked out for the two bowlers.
He said, “Well it’s going to have to be. Each batsman must have very clear plans on how they want to play both spinners and then execute that plan in the middle. It will be tough as they are both very effective bowlers in Indian conditions. Ashwin obviously understands the home conditions really well and knows how to utilise them. Similarly, Lyon probably has a better record in Australia for the same reasons.”
Having an experience of playing a lot of games on Indian soil, the Australian believed that preparing on the simulated subcontinental pitches in Dubai was enough. Also he advised newcomers Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb who are touring India for the first time for a test series, to get off strike as quickly as possible.
He said ,”Back your defence and have ways to get off strike. Be prepared to work very hard for long, long periods of time.”
The Indian team has been on song under the leadership of Virat Kohli off-late. What is important is that they have emulated the same sort of success on all kinds of pitches and not favoured a particular ,”spin friendly” wicket. Their recent series against England is an example where none of the pitches in the five test matches showed a lot of turn.
He added, “Definitely, but India are a high quality team particularly at home and it will be a huge challenge for our team, but as long as they are prepared to play tough Test cricket for long, long periods of time then I think we have a chance.”
The last time the Australian had toured India for a test series was when they were routed by the hosts by a humiliating 4-0 margin. Well this time around, they would like to forget that part of history and look forward to taste success in the subcontinent against the number 1 ranked side in the five day format. On the other hand, Virat Kohli and his men would look forward to carry on with their dominance in Test cricket and break some more records in the process. This should be a riveting encounter which no cricket lover should miss. February 23rd is the day it all starts.
(With inputs from PTI)