VVS Laxman column: Experience and skill-set alone not enough to beat Australia

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After an enforced lengthy break followed by an overload of white-ball action, India will return to Test cricket at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday. It’s been nine-and-a-half months since they played their last Test against New Zealand in Christchurch. Fortunately for them, a majority of the Test squad has played substantial competitive cricket over the last three months. The Test specialists who didn’t figure in the IPL in the UAE have been in Australia for a month, acclimatising to conditions and getting game-time in the two three-day warm-up fixtures.

India can derive confidence from their series win last time around and the brand of cricket they have showcased, but Adelaide offers a unique challenge in that it will be their first pink-ball Test overseas. Their only previous day-night Test was in Kolkata more than a year back, where they were barely tested by Bangladesh. Australia, with greater exposure to this innovation, will be a much tougher opposition, but this Indian side has what it takes to rise to the occasion.

In Australia, your experience and skill-set alone aren’t sufficient. You need to be mentally tough and positive. The sudden switch in formats will test their adaptability. The sooner they make the mandatory mental adjustments, the better their chances of staying in touch with a formidable home side.

How India starts the first day of the series, be it with bat or ball, will set the tone for what’s to follow, especially with Virat Kohli returning home after this match. That’s one of the reasons why I’d like to see KL Rahul partner Mayank Agarwal at the top of the tree. Rahul has been in great touch, admittedly in different formats, but he has experience of having played and savoured Test success in Australia previously. It’s imperative to have a stable, steady opening pair against a high-class pace attack, though I’m not sure if he figures in the team management’s plans.

Australia have problems of their own as far as openers are concerned. David Warner is out of the first Test, Joe Burns is horribly out of form and the promising Will Pucovski is out with a concussion. If India can feast on the openings, they will expose the impressive Marnus Labuschagne and the great Steve Smith to the new ball, which will be a huge part of their game plan.

India’s bowlers were outstanding two years back, and even in the experienced Ishant Sharma’s absence, boast great pace riches in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. If Ravindra Jadeja is fit, I’d want him to be the lone spinner to complement them, tie up one end and sustain the pressure. All in all, expect a cracker. I for one can’t wait for ‘play’ to be called.