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India vs Australia 2017: India's predicted XI for the first Test

Aadya Sharma

One of the most sought-after rivalries in world cricket will be rekindled when Steve Smith’s men lock horns with the Indian team for the final leg of the hosts’ 13-match home season. Having annihilated New Zealand and England in quick succession, the Indian Test team has the look of an unstoppable force: primarily on the shoulders of Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin, but fuelled by the combined team effort of the others.

Also read: India vs Australia 2017: All you need to know about the first Test in Pune

As the sides prepare for the opening bout at Pune, we take a look at the eleven Indian men who are most likely to make the cut to the first team:

OPENERS

KL RahulThere are no qualms in admitting that despite bucketloads of talent, KL Rahul will need to rectify his temperament, at least in the longest format.

With Murali Vijay for company, Rahul, a naturally free-flowing batsman with a penchant to pierce gaps with ease, can help get the run-rate going in the initial overs. Against Bangladesh, he failed to create any impact, falling to scores of 2 and 10 in the two innings. A sterner Aussie Test awaits him.

Murali VijayThe ever sedate Vijay, one of India’s most reliable batsman over the years, had been sidelined from the final Test against England last year after injuring his shoulder. He returned to play the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and was fit to feature in the one-off Test against Bangladesh where he scored a hundred in the first innings.

Vijay’s proven record against Australia gives the fans all the more reasons to expect something special from him.

MIDDLE-ORDER

Cheteshwar PujaraHaving overcome a drop in form and brushed aside critics with strong batting performances recently, Pujara is now back to prime form, as was exhibited by his 83 in the first innings against Bangladesh. He came back to score a quick half-century in the second innings when India required some rapid run making, showing that he is hardly the one-dimension player his critics accuse him of being. He recently made his way into the record books by scoring the most number of runs by an Indian in a first class season.

Virat Kohli

Words are drying up to describe the kind of form he is in currently, irrespective of the format or opponents. He crushed the Bangladeshis beyond repair with his fourth double ton in four consecutive Test series, becoming the first player in the history of the game to do so.

Against Australia, Virat Kohli has compiled some of his best knocks across formats: there is little reason why he won’t be able to reproduce the same.

Ajinkya RahaneThat he managed to sideline a triple-centurion from the following Test speaks volume of the importance Rahane has on the team in the longest format. A man for all conditions, Rahane’s finger injury might have had displaced him from the team for a while, but he announced his return with a well compiled 82 that helped forge a partnership with Kohli and Saha. He is a vital piece in the Indian batting machinery, possessing the ability to stall and rebuild the game if there is a top order collapse.

Wriddhiman SahaParthiv Patel displaced him for a while, but not for long. Still India’s No.1 choice keeper in Tests, Saha announced his return with a century against the Bangladeshis in the one-off Test, claiming his spot back with style.

Safe behind the gloves, Saha’s only problem while batting is that he tends to throw his wicket away at the most crucial junctures.

SPINNERS

Ravichandran AshwinEnjoying the form of his life, Ashwin recently became the quickest to 250 Test wickets, a feat that he achieved by spinning his web against the Bangladeshis at Hyderabad.

Having broken Sir Richard Hadlee’s record in just 45 Tests, Ashwin will be licking his fingers at the prospect of bowling to the touring Aussies, who succumbed to the same trade against Sri Lanka last year.

Ravindra JadejaWith each passing series, Jadeja, the all-rounder, is coming to the fore, chipping in with some useful runs apart from his left-arm spin.

As was evident at Hyderabad, Jadeja, with his blazing, unbeaten 60, managed to rocket the Indian total close to 700. He came back to assist Ashwin, picking up two wickets in the first innings and four in the second.

The No.2 bowler in the world will look to close in the gap to his teammate, Ashwin, in the ICC bowlers’ rankings.

Jayant YadavEarnest and hard-working, Jayant Yadav has earned the praise of his peers, especially his captain, with the way he has seamlessly graduated to international cricket. Possessing a sharp brain despite having no outstanding abilities, Jayant knows how to play within his limits and contribute to the team’s cause.

The drab pitch in Pune will require the services of another spinner and Jayant, with his off spin and able batting abilities, perfectly fits the bill.

PACERS

Umesh YadavFor a while, his waywardness was overshadowing his express pace. Ever since making his debut in 2011, Umesh Yadav bled runs, even in Tests, and was given a proper thrashing the last time he played against Australia in 2013/14.

A transformed Yadav has now turned the tables, evolving into a wicket-taking bowler who can really dent the opposition’s top order with his relentless pace. Against Bangladesh, he picked up three wickets in the first innings, testing the batsmen with his swift deliveries, a weapon that India would love to fully utilise on slow pitches.

Ishant SharmaCurrently in the limelight for not really the right reason, Ishant Sharma, unsold at the IPL auction, will have to pick himself up and shrug away the dust real quick. He was back to his lethal self against Bangladesh after what had been an indifferent 2016: injuries, illnesses and poor form, all combining to trouble the lanky pacer.

At Hyderabad, he picked up two wickets in the final innings against Bangladesh, testing the batsmen with some nippy pace. He came into the limelight with a superb spell against Australia in 2008. Maybe it’s time to rewind the clock and dish out another classic spell.

Edited by Staff Editor

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