Cheteshwar Pujara averages 58.53 in Test cricket. Image courtesy of news.com.au
Australia will get the chance to see just how far it has come under Mickey Arthur when the 1st Test against India gets underway on Friday. Since Arthur was appointed coach, Australia has lost just two of its 15 Test matches, although they have played 12 of those at home. Facing India on the sub-continent is one of the most daunting challenges in world cricket and one that Australia has traditionally struggled with, winning just four Test matches there since the 1969/70.
Despite not having played since fracturing his thumb in the nets prior to the start of the ODI series against the West Indies last month, David Warner will be reacquainted with Ed Cowan at the top of the order, with Shane Watson batting at number four. He replaces the retired Mike Hussey with Matthew Wade to bat at six ahead of Moises Henriques, who will become Australia's 432nd Test cricketer. Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle have been selected to lead the attack, alongside James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc.
Virender Sehwag will have a new partner at the top of the order, with Gautam Gambhir dropped. Shikhar Dhawan could make his Test debut but it is more likely that Murali Vijay will play his first international match since July 2011. Cheteshwar Pujara averages 58.53 from his first nine Test matches and has emerged as the lynchpin in India’s middle order with Sachin Tendulkar past his best. The leading runscorer in the history of Test cricket has scored just one half century in his past 13 innings for India and this series could well be his swansong. The hosts played went into their most recent five day game against England with four spinners and are likely to again field a strong contingent of tweakers, with Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha likely to be complemented by Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia scored a 4-0 series whitewash against India in the 2011/12 summer, but conditions in the sub-continent will be very different to those which Australia’s paceman enjoyed just over twelve months ago. India has won the past two series that it has hosted against Australia without losing a match and given the troubles that Michael Clarke’s side has had against quality spin bowlers in the past, a similar result isn’t out of the question. Three of the past four Test matches in Chennai have ended in a draw however, and that is probably a result that the tourists would be happy to start the series with.
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