First Test preview: India v Australia

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Since before Australia had even arrived in Sri Lanka last year they have had one eye on their visit to India which is now upon them.

The tourists preparation has been far from ideal, successive series defeats prompted the resignation of the chief selector and a revolution in playing staff.

The positives to come out of those changes has been the emergence of stoic young opener Matthew Renshaw and the unorthodox but reliable Peter Handscomb in the middle order.

There has been much debate about who will make the XI for the first Test which suggests Australia are just as ill-prepared for this tour as they were for Sri Lanka.

India meanwhile have become an unstoppable juggernaut in Test cricket, at least at home, where they have not tasted defeat in 20 outings.

Under the aggressive leadership of Virat Kohli India grind out results with ruthless efficiency, they bat deep and have the top two bowlers in Test cricket in their ranks in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Australia have brought plenty of spin options along with them in Nathan Lyon, Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Agar and allrounder Glen Maxwell but it remains to be seen if they will be able to extract the same kind of results that India’s spin kings do.

Australia look likely to lean heavily on the ability of Steve Smith in the middle order while India are less relient on their superstar captain Kohli, who can hurt any team with big hundreds.

India have beaten Australia in their last seven meetings in India and the tourists have lost their last nine Tests in Asia.

The series and this first Test look set to be something of a mismatch, Australia will need to be both brave and smart if they are to emerge from this series with even a shred of pride.

Key Players

Who else but Kohli, while India have plenty of firepower in their top and middle order it is Kohli who can take the game away from the Australians in a hurry.

David Warner will be key for Australia, if he can put India on the backfoot early in an innings Australia may be able to wrestle the iniative from their hosts.

Ashwin and Jadeja are the joint key bowlers for India, invariably one or both of them will tear through the opposition in the latter stages of a match and get a result.

Mitchell Starc repeating his form from Sri Lanka would be a massive boost to Australia who will still rely heavily on their seam bowling options.

Squads

India squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, W Saha (wk), R Ashwin, R Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund and Hardik Pandya.

Australia squad: Steve Smith (Captain), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O’Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Last five head-to-head matches

2015 Fourth Test: Drawn in Sydney
2015 Third Test: Drawn in Melbourne
2015 Second Test: Australia won by 4 wickets in Brisbane
2015 First Test: Australia won by 48 runs in Adelaide
2013 Fourth Test: India won by 6 wickets in Delhi

Details

23-27 February

Morning session: 09:30-11:30 (04:00-06:00 GMT)
Afternoon session: 12:15-14:15 (06:45-08:45 GMT)
Evening session: 14:30-17:00 (09:00-11:30 GMT)

Umpires: Nigel Llong, Richard Kettleborough
TV Umpire: Richard Illingworth
Match Referee: Chris Broad

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