In the aftermath of India’s humiliating loss in the opening Test against Australia in Pune, comparisons soon began to crop up with the euphoric 2001 slugfest between these two teams, 1972/73 home series against England and the 2015 tour of Sri Lanka. While hope often provides succour, the hosts will know that they cannot afford another slip-up as the series enters a tipping point in Bengaluru.
A victory here will be enough for Australia to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as well as to deny India the chance to hold all Test trophies at the same time. Considering the unexpected change in fortunes and the weight of expectations involved, this match will be a massive test of resolve for Virat Kohli’s troops.
Let us take a close look at every aspect surrounding the second Test which is slated to begin on Saturday at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
#5 Can Australia’s spin duo continue to impress?
Among the major talking points of the Pune Test was the fact that Australia’s spin duo of Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon managed to out bowl the much more fancied combination of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on a rank turner.
Having earned respect with their performance, the focus will now be on O’Keefe and Lyon to prove that it was not a flash in the pan. With the pitches likely to get better for batting as the series progresses, they may need to come up with different plans to outwit the Indian batsmen. Meanwhile, Ashwin and Jadeja will be well aware that they have to bring their A game against what seems to be a purposeful batting lineup.
Team Form (Last 5 matches in reverse chronological order)
India – LWWWW
Australia – WWWWW
#4 Bengaluru curators promise a sporting track
In the days leading up to the match, Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) Secretary R Sudhakar Rao had declared that they were looking to ‘prepare a sporting, Test match pitch’ designed to last five days. Although there was a noticeable grass cover a couple of days back, the surface should get a nice trim by the time the game starts.
All signs point to a pitch which will assist batsmen during the first two or three days as spinners may have to remain content with slow turn. However, the surface could begin to deteriorate from the fourth day onwards at which point the turn becomes more pronounced. With rain forecast on all five days of the match, the seamers should enjoy the thick cloud cover on offer.
#3 India remain guarded against making changes
Ahead of the match, India coach Anil Kumble revealed that there was ‘no question of dropping Ajinkya Rahane’. Even though he remained non-committal on the team combination, the hosts are seriously considering the possibility of playing an extra batsman to shore up a lineup low in confidence. In such case, Karun Nair will replace Jayant Yadav. The prevalence of cloud cover can also convince the team management to draft in Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place of Ishant Sharma.
On the other hand, Australia are likely to go in with an unchanged eleven from the previous Test.
Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Ishant Sharma
Matthew Renshaw, David Warner, Steven Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Starc, Steve O'Keefe, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood
#2 Vijay set for 50th Test
Here are a few interesting statistics pertaining to this match.
Vijay is set to become the 29th Indian cricketer to play 50 Tests.
Jadeja needs 71 more runs to become the 10th Indian all-rounder to complete the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets.
If he scores a century in this Test, Smith will join the legendary Sir Donald Bradman (against England) in scoring six consecutive tons against the same opponent.
Smith needs 112 more runs to become the 20th Australian batsman to complete 5000 Test runs.
Rahul requires 119 more runs to become the 64th Indian cricketer to complete 1000 Test runs.
#1 Importance of leading from the front
The stand out batsman from both sides, Smith could have a massive influence in shaping the match. But the Indians need to remind themselves that they could have prevented the Australian skipper from scoring the second-innings century in Pune had their close-in fielders found a way to catch the ball. If they show similar shoddiness here, the 27-year old run machine will capitalise once again.
For India, all eyes will be on their skipper Virat Kohli whose body language in the opening Test appeared to sour as his team were being put under the sword. However, acknowledging his driven nature, he will be seething. It won’t be any surprise if he sets Bengaluru alight with a resplendent knock.