India’s famous victory against Australia in the 2018- 19 series is by far one of the most glittering outcomes in the team’s history as a Test playing nation. As a matter of fact, upon greater deliberation, one realises that India had been the more settled of the two entering that series. As Australia kept on looking for a settled opening partnership, India gave a good account of themselves and their bench strength as Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari replaced the incumbent Vijay and Rahul and landed the opening blows in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.
Have the tables been turned this time?
Maybe yes, maybe no, but who knows?
Australia’s Sheffield Shield season this year has all been about youngsters making the case stronger for themselves. The recent surge of consistent performances from youngsters like Will Pucovski , Cameron Green and Mitchell Swepson has come at the right moment for Australia.
Will Pucovski, the top-order right-hander (and Green) is among the five uncapped players who have been included in the 17-man Test squad for the series that few can turn away from.
Look no further than the tenth game of the Sheffield Shield, that took place only a fortnight ago.
A young, unassuming right-hander stayed put for 347 deliveries and birthed 202 runs.
Victoria were set alight by an inning of unquestionable domination where the captain, Peter Handscomb, seven years Will Pucovski’s senior was 118 runs shy of the Aussie fella.
The only other centurion in a drawn game, where Will Pucovski alone accounted for 250 runs was Sean Marsh, who purely on time spent on the planet (quite like his calm and focused conduct on the 22 yards) was already a mid-teenager by the time the bane of Western Australia’s in that game first arrived in this world.
The last time around, Pujara, criticised for putting the world to sleep arose with dogged hundreds. The result?
A Smith and Warner-less Australia- as how most critics who question the efficacy of the win define India’s win- went down.
This time around, there are new names, even as the old warhorses- well not so much given that Warner is 34 not the other way around- are back.
So while Michael Neser and Sean Abbott also find themselves in the extended squad, there’s one name in the Australian squad, in particular, that’s garnered attention.
Will Pucovski had a tremendous start to the season as he scored two back to back double centuries and finds himself in exclusive company owing to the feat. His tally of 495 runs in two games at a mind numbing average of 247.50 made his selection a no brainer according to Trevor Hohns, Australia’s chief of selectors.
Out of all the five new entries into the Australian Test squad, Pucovski’s case is the strongest as he competes against Joe Burns who has scored a mere 57 runs in 5 innings. But given the latter’s settled spot in Australia’s Test team, Pucovski may not expect to get a look in straightaway as Burns has formed a defiant and formidable alliance with David Warner at the top of the order.
Just like Pucovski, Michael Neser too has drawn the attention with his all round abilities. His maiden first class century and regular wickets with the old and new ball in the Sheffield shield makes him an ideal choice for the number seven spot in the already bolstered batting line up. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to make a debut whilst being in the squad. But, playing four high octane test matches in just a month may be challenging for Starc, Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson. In that case, Neser and Sean Abbott may be the right men to replace them.
In the opposite end of the spectrum, the Indian Test selection is surrounded by questions rather than answers. Rohit Sharma’s injury conundrum and Virat Kohli’s paternal leave and consequent absence thereof (for the last three tests) are worrying factors for the Indians.
Apart from the sheer weight of runs, ‘King Kohli’s’ aggression will be missed.
Nevertheless, hopes shall be high to see Malvern, Victoria’s doting son to bag valuable runs to signal green for his team.
That the audience is waiting for the real ‘test’ to begin after months of T20 merry making only adds to its significance.
-with contributions from Dev Tyagi!