Everyone loves a good pizza. And let’s be honest, a normal pizza, all by itself, without any fancy add-ons, tends to taste pretty damn good. But throw in a good seasoning, a bit of extra cheese and boy the pizza gets elevated to a whole different level. .
Head-to-head battles in sport between rivals are like Pizza. The contest in itself is a drooling prospect, but throw in a good narrative / sub-plot, you’re all of a sudden looking at something that’s irresistible. This time around, we have tons of ridiculously good narratives heading into the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Alright, come on, let’s dive right into them!
Lyon vs Ashwin (again)
Nathan Lyon and Ravichandran Ashwin are both legends and match-winners who, as bowlers, are nothing alike despite being off-spinners. Their skill-sets and methods are so contrasting that they can totally co-exist in the same side.
So in a way, comparing them is a futile exercise.
Still, when the two best spinners of the generation collide, it is only natural to turn their presence into a 1 v 1 battle.
Now, most people, Australian fans included, tend to accept that Ashwin is the superior of the two. And rightly so; everything points towards the same.
But make no mistake, once the series begins, every single soul will be keeping a close eye on the mini-battle to see who comes out on top.
If it’s Ashwin, the Ashwin vs Lyon debate will be settled forever (if it hasn’t been done already). But if Lyon somehow manages to outbowl Ash (and either help Australia draw or win the series), the debate might drag on.
In the previous Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Ashwin — 12 wickets @ 28.83 — outbowled Lyon — 9 wickets @ 55.11 — in his own backyard and fully asserted his dominance and superiority.
However, the last time Australia toured India, Lyon — 19 wickets @ 25.26 — enjoyed a better outing than his Indian counterpart, who took 21 wickets @ 27.38.
Two serial-winners, both Lyon and Ashwin will be desperate to get the ‘W’ by one-upping their rival.
Kohli’s history (past) with Australia and his future in Test cricket
At the end of the 2014/15 Border Gavaskar Trophy, Kohli was pronounced the Australia slayer. After 12 Tests against the Kangaroos, his average read 60.76 and he’d just made a massive statement by smashing four tons in the same series, in Australia’s backyard.
But 8 years on, the 2014/15 BGT continues to remain Kohli’s last great showing in a series against the Aussies in whites.
He’s since played 8 Tests and has averaged 29.00, with the 123 in Perth being his only memorable knock in this period.
Six years ago, in fact, he endured a humiliating series, averaging 9.20 across the 5 innings he batted.
Being someone who takes immense pride in battles, Kohli will be desperate to turn a corner and become the Australia slayer again. He’ll certainly be hurting knowing that he no longer is the top dog; that discourse about him is not what dominates Australia’s team-meetings anymore.
But he’ll also want to get back on the runs for the sake of his own Test career.
Across his last 20 Tests, Kohli is averaging 26.20, having struck a grand total of zero hundreds. In other words, taking a minimum cut-off of 750 runs, he’s been the second-worst batter in the world in this period.
One more failure could do more damage than just hurt his pride; it could potentially jeopardize his Test career.
Pat Cummins’ Test career comes full circle
It was six years ago in India that Pat Cummins re-debuted in Test cricket, playing in whites after a six-year hiatus. Back then, all you could wonder was this: ‘will Cummins get through a Test without his body breaking down?’
Six years on, he returns to the place of his re-birth as not only the best bowler in the entire world, but as the captain of the Australian cricket team.
Just who would have thought?
Fond flashbacks ft. KL Rahul
If you’d said six years ago that KL Rahul would be vice-captaining the Indian Test side along the line, not a single soul would have been surprised.
Rahul was, by some distance, India’s best batter in the 2016/17 Border-Gavaskar Trophy and he seemed destined for greatness. His showing in that particular series felt like a watershed moment.
Here we are, six years on, in 2023. Rahul is officially the vice-captain of the Test side but he seems unrecognizable from the 24-year-old that scorched the Aussies — and not in a good way. He no longer expresses himself with the bat like he once used to, and he no longer is adored by the entire country.
He, if anything, is loathed and is the single biggest opinion-divider in the entire country.
So, with everything that unfolded back in 2017, and everything that’s happened since, there’s a really good narrative here.
With plenty of fond flashbacks, the stage is set for Rahul to redeem himself versus the opponent against whom he first announced himself.
Warner’s last chance to salvage his record in India (and perhaps his career)
That David Warner has a pretty unimpressive record outside Australia is a well-known fact. But for someone who has a reputation of being a good player of spin, the southpaw’s record in India is pretty hideous.
Warner has played 8 Tests in India and his average in the country reads 24.25 — the lowest for him in any country in which he’s played a minimum of 5 Tests. In 16 innings in India he’s notched up a total of just three fifty-plus scores.
36 now, the forthcoming tour is certain to be Warner’s final visit to India in Tests. The opener, then, has one last chance to salvage his record in India, which will undoubtedly be brought up in the years to come should people debate his claim to be known as an all-time-great opener.
These four Tests may also very well end up deciding Warner’s future in Test cricket. Should he fail miserably, there’s every chance that he could be dropped for good, particularly with Australia’s next assignment being in a country in which Warner, again, has an appalling record.
The southpaw undoubtedly bought himself some time through the memorable double-ton at the MCG but it won’t be an overstatement to claim that Warner will enter the India series with his career, reputation and legacy all at stake.
Litmus Test for Marnus Labuschagne
He might officially be the number one ranked batter in the world, but not everyone is convinced that Marnus Labuschagne is the real deal. Yet.
His dominance, a large section believes, has predominantly come at home and he still needs to have a statement series in order to be crowned the undisputed best batter in Tests.
To an extent, this is true. Labuschagne is by no means a home track bully, for he averages 50.42 and amassed a ton on a turner in Galle six months ago, but his ludicrous numbers are largely down to his invincibility at home: in Australia, he averages 70.50, with 9 of his 10 Test tons coming at home.
The Queenslander will go a long way in ascertaining his credibility by having a stellar series in India.
No India vs Australia build-up is complete without shedding light on the Pujara vs AUS battle. We did not delve into it here since it's already been extensively covered in the H2H battles piece written by Anirudh Kasargod.
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