The Border-Gavaskar Trophy evokes a sense of occasion from cricket lovers. Since the late 1990s, the India-Australia rivalry has only intensified – with some great contests etching themselves in memory for the ages. India’s heroics at Kolkata in 2001, Adelaide in 2003 and Brisbane in 2021 occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of their fans. As another edition is on the anvil, the Indian fans will be ready to back their team for the trophy.
India have won the last three editions of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy – one at home and, quite remarkably, two in Australia. Back in 2017, India bounced back after being beaten in the first Test at Pune to take the series 2-1. In 2018-19, India made history by winning a Test series Down Under for the first time in their history. Then at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, India gave its fans a reason to smile with an improbable ‘Against All Odds’ Test series win in Australia.
Australia are known to be fierce competitors and would be eyeing a similar victory in India. While visiting teams do not find it easy in India, Australia would be up for the challenge. Since 2017, India have lost only two Tests at home – one of which was against Australia at Pune. Thus, the excitement for this series is palpable and it is one we all will be looking forward to.
Meanwhile, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy could be a great opportunity for our Titans in the classical format.
In the aftermath of India’s nightmare at Adelaide in 2020, where they were bowled out for 36, Shubman Gill was thrust into the cauldron when he made his Test debut at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. The right-hander looked comfortable on debut, making his way to 45 in his maiden essay and following it up with a calm 35 not out to take India to victory. At Sydney in the third Test, he bagged his maiden Test half century in the first innings. However, Shubman’s true quality came to the fore during the memorable run-chase at Brisbane in the fourth Test, with an innings of 91 that set it up for India.
Touring Australia can test the best, but in his maiden series, Shubman inspired confidence in the face of a challenge. He scored 259 runs in six innings at an average of 51.80.
Shubman enters his first Border-Gavaskar Trophy at home with an enhanced reputation following great consistency. A maiden Test century in Bangladesh, remarkable consistency in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) culminating in a remarkable double century against New Zealand, capped off with a first century in T20 Internationals, Shubman will be geared up to take on the Aussies.
That Mohammad Shami is one of the best fast bowlers India has produced is well-known. He has been a dependable presence during India’s great run in Test cricket during the last few years. He can move the red-ball both ways at the beginning of the innings and can make great inroads with the old ball. However, it is interesting that he has never played a home series against Australia. All his eight Tests against them have come in Australia. In those eight matches, he has taken 31 wickets with two five-wicket hauls. Back in 2018, he had bagged six for 56 in the Perth Test – which remain his best figures in the classical format. In 2020, he was unfortunately injured at Adelaide and had to return home.
Shami will be determined to produce the goods in the home series against Australia. Normally, there is a lot of talk about spin during Tests in India. However, Shami’s record at home reflects how good he has been on challenging surfaces for fast bowlers. In 18 Tests at home, he has taken 67 wickets at a remarkable average of 21.28.
The skillful wicketkeeper-batter has been around the Indian Test squad for some time and has been waiting in the wings for the opportunity to don the coveted cap. Bharat has shown his talent with both bat and gloves. He was recently a part of the Indian one-day side as well. Bharat could be in line for a Test debut at Nagpur. He comes in with copious First-Class experience. In 86 matches, he has scored 4707 runs at an average of 37.95 with nine centuries. With the gloves, he has accounted for 331 dismissals. All the experience, particularly his time with the Indian team and with the A-side will hold him in good stead if he is awarded the coveted Test cap.
Bharat has had a taste of Test cricket when he was brought on as a substitute for Wriddhiman Saha at Kanpur against New Zealand in 2021. As a substitute, he gave a good account of himself and took a good catch.