Fool’s gold? India wary of new-look Aussies
THE return of Steve Smith and David Warner and the unforeseen rise of Marnus Labuschagne already has India's world-class pace attack wary as they look to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia next summer.
The four-Test series will almost certainly double as a World Test Championship final preview, given India (360 points) and Australia (296) sit miles ahead of third-placed England (86) on the ladder.
The top two countries will play off in a Test at Lord's in June next year. Australia and India are desperately targeting that maiden crown.
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Captain Tim Paine, 35, wants to lead the Aussies out at Lord's in what could be a fairytale farewell from international cricket.
Virat Kohli created history last summer when he captained India to the first series win in Australia (2-1) by a team from Asia.
But Kohli conceded that, with Smith and Warner suspended and Labuschagne - who replaced Aaron Finch for the final Test - a shadow of the player he has become, the crushing victory was fool's gold looking ahead to next summer.
Australia's batting has undergone a total makeover since that series.
Vice-captain Travis Head is the only survivor from a top six that, across the first three Tests, featured Finch, Usman Khawaja, Marcus Harris, Pete Handscomb, Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh.
It was the first time in 136 years that no Australian posted a century from a four-Test series on home soil.
India celebrated five tons, with three coming from the bat of unbreakable No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara as the tourists boasted the top three run-scorers.
"This time around the series is going to be different, in terms of their batting challenging our bowlers," Kohli said.
"To be fair, last time around, their players were not that experienced.
"If you take out David and Steve, and Marnus came in but he played only one game. The way he's shaped up in the last summer, it's amazing.
"He has so much consistency, it's always good to watch at the international level, and the hunger and the passion you can see in his game.
"It'll be a challenge for us to break through that batting order, but it's a challenge we should look forward to.
"We want to keep challenging ourselves as a team and we're the top two sides on the (World Test Championship) table as well."
Australia will also play one home Test against minnow Afghanistan next summer however Cricket Australia wants the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to expand to five Tests moving forward, an idea backed by Shane Warne.
"In my heart I'd love to think we could do that (play India in a five-Test series)," CA boss Kevin Roberts said.
"The one thing we're most focused on is the wellbeing of players, so we won't be asking players to play anymore in the next eight-year cycle (2023-2031).
"(But) if there was a way to play a five-Test series against India, and also maintain the wellbeing of our players and not ask them to play anymore, that would be a great solution."