Batting great Greg Chappell believes Australia can win the upcoming high-profile four-match Test series as India is “vulnerable” this time with injuries to key players like Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah.
While the swashbuckling keeper-batter Pant is ruled out for the most part of the year as he continues to recover from injuries sustained during a horrific car crash, Indian pace ace Bumrah (back injury) does not figure in the Indian squad for the first two Tests.
“Australia can win this series. India are more vulnerable at home than they have been for some time due to injuries to key players like Rishbah Pant, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah. They will rely heavily on Virat Kohli,” Chappell wrote in an opinion piece for Sydney Morning Herald.
Also read: ‘Ashwin’ helping Australia in Bengaluru ahead of Test series against India
Premier spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who recovered from a knee injury and made a comeback in the Ranji Trophy last month, is in the Indian squad for the Test series beginning in Nagpur on Thursday.
“Visiting teams are often fooled by a game that seems to be going nowhere but suddenly changes at a frenetic pace. The Indians are used to this, so Australia will need to adapt quickly with mind, bat and ball,” said the former India coach.
Finger spinner Ashton Agar, who is Australia’s only lef-tarm tweaker in the squad, should be preferred to partner Nathan Lyon on turning tracks, Chappell said.
Also read: Is Shubman Gill the next Virat Kohli? Experts have their say
“Should the pitches favour spin, which is more likely, I expect Ashton Agar to get the nod because finger spin is considered to be more accurate,” said the 74-year-old Chappell who scored 7110 runs from 87 Tests with an impressive average of 53.86 between 1970 and 1984.
“Anil Kumble who took 619 wickets in Test cricket, rarely strayed off the straight and narrow. His stock in trade were fast, flat leg breaks which were always threatening the stumps. Batters knew if they missed, they were in trouble. Jadejas stock in trade is similarly unerring.
“Agar has got to emulate their roles. One bowler leaking runs will be the difference in a tight contest.”
Recollecting his conversation with Erapalli Prasanna, he wrote the Indian legend would spin the ball hard, try to hit the batter on the pads often, get him thinking about the spinning ball, and then trap him on the crease with a straight one.
“Line, he (Prasanna) said, was optional, length was mandatory. He explained to me that he would lay the seam a bit flatter than for the traditional off spinner and then impart a higher number of rotations on the ball that would make the ball drift like an off spinner but, once it landed on the leather, it would skid on with the arm giving the impression that it had gone the other way.
“As the leader of the spin attack, Nathan Lyon will need to take pages out of his book and show the way.”
Chappell, however, said that Australia will also have issues to iron out.
“David Warner is in patchy form and needs to improve his Test record in India; Usman Khawaja, Alex Carey, Travis Head and Cameron Green will be tested against better quality spin than they encountered in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“Marcus Labuschagne will be facing his first big test in the subcontinent; and Steve Smiths recent batting tweaks will be examined more keenly than against the West Indies, South Africa and in the BBL,” he wrote.
The series will be like a final frontier for the Pat Cummins-led No. 1 Test side who have been on a roll after the pacer took over from Tim Paine.
Australia has had a fine run recently, winning the Ashes and then the series against Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa. They will be in search of their first series win in India in 19 years.
In its last tour of India in 2017, Australia began with a big win in the Pune Test but went on to lose the series 1-2. India, on the other hand, has not lost at home for more than a decade and has a record streak of winning 15 series.
“The Australians will have to summon every ounce of their talent and experience during the next month to succeed. India is no longer the mystery it once was. Tours are more regular and the IPL offers valuable exposure.
“Attrition takes a huge toll on touring teams. If India are in the contest on day five, they will win,” Chappell said.
The former captain said the key for Australia would be to take wickets at regular intervals.
“Delhi and Dharamshala will be a fortress for India. Nagpur is a red soil pitch on which batting is best on the first three days unless they produce a raging turner. In Ahmedabad there are red as well as black soil pitches and the state of the series will dictate what India order.
“To win, Australia must get wickets with the new ball. As the ball gets softer, they must bowl frugally and then reverse-swing the old ball. Spin is more of a weapon in India than in Australia, but we must always play our four best bowlers plus Cameron Green.”
Comparing India-Australia battle to a game of chess, the Australian lagend quoted Austrian chess player Rudolf Spielmann who had said Play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician and the end game like a machine.
“I have seen a lot of Tests in India and it is as much a battle of the mind as of physical skills. What works in India, is not guaranteed to work anywhere else. Winning in India takes pluck, planning, patience and persistence,” Chappell said.