Top 5 Learnings for India from Australia's 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan

Smith Warner Lyon
These three men hold the key for Australia’s fortunes in India

Unlike most other sports, conditions play the single biggest factor in influencing the outcome of cricket matches (especially in the modern era). Rampant home victories often do not count for much when teams step out of their comfort zones. However, buoyant form and regained momentum can certainly have a say in shaping the mindset ahead of demanding tours.

After whitewashing Pakistan at home 3-0, Australia’s next Test assignment will be something which is seen as the toughest in the current global game. They are set to arrive onto Indian shores next month for a highly anticipated 4-match series. Virat Kohli’s team will be eager to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy (which they had lost down under in 2014/15) as well as stretch their dominance at the top of the rankings.

Let us take a close look at five factors from the recently completed Pakistan series that India can make note of and use to their advantage against the Australia.

#5 Ruthlessly target Australia’s inexperienced batsmen

Peter Handscomb
Peter Handscomb used his feet adeptly to negate Yasir Shah

In the aftermath of heavy defeats at the hands of South Africa in Perth and Hobart, the Australian selectors overhauled the batting lineup significantly. Older and out of form players were removed with youngsters blooded into the side.

The likes of Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb vindicated the decision by playing their part in Australia's victories in the subsequent four matches.

However, the duo do not have any substantial experience in playing in subcontinental conditions. Indian bowlers need to ensure that they do not get as warm a welcome as England’s rookie batsmen did in the previous series. Australia’s senior batsmen will find themselves under major scrutiny when wickets keep falling at the other end.

#4 Make Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood bowl particularly long spells

Mitchell Starc
Starc has often struggled to maintain his rhythm when asked to bowl long spells

In this home summer, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have bowled a combined tally of 591.5 overs across both Tests and ODIs thus far. 292.4 of those overs came in the 3-match series against Pakistan.

Due to the absence of a viable fifth-bowler, the duo had to keep running in and finding the breakthroughs. While Hazlewood‘s consistency did not falter, Starc appeared to struggle with the workload as the series progressed.

From India’s point of view, it will be imperative that skipper Steven Smith does not get to use his two strike bowlers in short bursts. If the Australian spinners are not allowed to settle down, he won’t have any choice but to force his seamers to bowl much longer than they would like and thus expose them to burnout.

#3 Try to block David Warner and Steven Smith’s scoring areas

Steven Smith
The only way to stop Smith from settling down is to block his scoring areas effectively

Among the major errors in Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy were his baffling field placements which allowed the likes of Smith and David Warner to manipulate the bowlers’ lengths. At the slightest instance of the Australians showing intent, he spread the field in a bid to protect the boundaries.

What actually transpired was the batsmen piercing the gaps with precision and taking advantage of the open spaces on offer.

In his captaincy stint so far, Kohli has at times tried to follow the ball when runs began to flow. Such a tactic may inadvertently help the Aussie batsmen get into the groove. Tighter field placements (with special emphasis on plugging the gaps) might not allow them to take those quick ones and twos. As a result, pressure will start to build which could then induce mistakes.

#2 Preparing flat pitches can play into the visitors’ hands

David Warner
Warner can take the game away quickly on batting friendly surfaces

Amidst all the hue and cry regarding the nature of Indian pitches, reports emerged of the team management asking the curators to provide flat tracks during the 5-match series against England. Though the hosts cruised to a comfortable 4-0 triumph, the series began with them feeling the heat on a ‘road-like’ surface in Rajkot.

Due to Alastair Cook’s defensive declaration and skipper Kohli’s rearguard, India managed to escape unscathed.

Even the victory in the final Test in Chennai was made possible due to a second-innings collapse by a mentally disintegrated England side. If they manage to win the toss more often than not, pitches like those can bring Australia’s attacking batting lineup into play. Warner and Smith have been regularly showing their ability to decimate bowling units on batting-friendly surfaces.

Needless to say, the Aussie captain won’t hesitate to make a bold declaration when such an opportunity arises.

#1 Never underestimate the opposition

Nathan Lyon
Lyon bowled Australia to victory on a day-five Adelaide track against India in the 2014/15 series

Australia's recent record on Asian soil makes for abysmal reading - 9 successive losses with 3 consecutive whitewashes. On the other hand, India have an impeccable record at home with not even a single Test defeat since the start of 2013. Adding to it is the fact that they are on a streak of 18 unbeaten matches and 5 straight series victories. The writing seems to be on the wall, doesn't it? Well, not quite so.

As we have often seen in the game's illustrious history, nothing can be taken for granted. In the past, India had lost series at home when they were not expected to do so with the prime example being the 2012 one against England.

After regaining their fortunes at home, Australia will have nothing to lose even if they were to be whitewashed in a gruelling away series. But, the hosts will be under immense pressure to replicate their 4-0 victory during the last time these two sides met in this part of the world. For India, this series promises to be as much of a challenge of their own ruthlessness as much it will be against the visiting Aussies.

2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy Schedule

Test NumberDatesVenue
1February 23-27Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune
2March 4-8M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru
3March 16-20JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi
4March 25-29

HPCA Stadium, Dharamsala

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Edited by Staff Editor
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