Only the present can prevent Virat Kohli’s India from making history
Virat Kohli will need a lot more support than he got in South Africa and England. @AFP

Virat Kohli wants to become the first Indian  captain to win a Test series in Australia.

He genuinely believes his team can do it. You’d have to be living in an igloo in Lapland not to have heard him talk about the progress India have made over the past few years and how determined this team is.

Kohli’s Indian team is ranked No 1 in the ICC Test Championship, but this year lost series in South Africa 1-2 and in England 1-4. No Indian team has won a Test series in Australia, and there are many former Indian and Australian cricketers who believe that this is their best chance to win a Test series on Australian soil.

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Of all Kohli’s strongly-worded comments since the team wrapped up a series win over West Indies at home, the one that stands out came in Brisbane ahead of the first T20I. In his view, he and his team had learnt from the “radical” mistakes made in England.

“The quality of cricket was very high but our mistakes were as radical which is why we lost the games. The game that we committed lesser mistakes in, we won that one,” said Kohli. “We were at par with the other team. We have the ability to keep competing with the other team, at par, and in Test cricket whichever team makes less mistakes wins the game. We’re focusing on cutting down our mistakes. If a situation goes bad for us, how to plug that situation as soon as possible, and find an outcome from that situation.”

Strong and eyebrow-raising words from the captain of a team that lost four of five Tests in England.

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This is Kohli’s third Test tour to Australia, having been their top run-getter in 2011-12 when in his first year of Test cricket (he made 300 runs in four Tests) and then putting up a record 692 runs at 86.50, with four centuries, in 2014-15.

Virat Kohli began the 2014-15 series with twin tons at Adelaide Oval.
Virat Kohli began the 2014-15 series with twin tons at Adelaide Oval. @AFP

His mountain of runs could not prevent a series defeat to Steve Smith’s team, but the Kohli of 2018 is a much-improved batsman of four years ago. He lacks support, but the progress of India’s bowling since 2014-15 suggests that India will do better. Since then, India have reached the pinnacle of No 1 in Tests and Kohli has matured plentiful as a batsman, with runs across the globe. From a team perspective, the batting has fallen drastically away from home the but the bowling has gained, with South Africa bowled out in each of the three Tests in January and England losing all 10 wickets on seven of nine occasions this summer.

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma are the fast bowlers for Adelaide, backed by R Ashwin as the specialist spinner. Bumrah has not played a Test in Australia. The other three have and their numbers are startling. Ishant averages 62.15 and has a strike-rate of 105.4. Ashwin averages 55 and gets a wickets every 97 balls. Shami averages 36 but has conceded runs at 4.42 an over.

Yes, this attack has the potential to take 20 Australian wickets but it is not going to be a cakewalk as many have surmised.

To beat Australia in Australia, India will need to score at least 350 runs in each innings against a bowling attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

Lyon, Australia’s greatest finger-spinner and fourth most successful in Tests, who in 2014 bowled the home team to victory at Adelaide Oval. You don’t need to remember the name, but keep an eye on that skinny, bald man when the first Test gets underway on December 6.

While India’s pace bowling is arguably the best it has been for decades, the batting has let the team down on tours to South Africa and England this year. Ajinkya Rahane’s form has been part of the problem, as indicated by a Test batting average of 29.66 from 15 innings in 2018. He is a shadow of the batsman who during the 2014-15 tour scored 399 runs at 47 with a stunning 147 at the MCG. Cheteshwar Pujara is not the same batsman away from home as the one who churns out runs in India, and batting at No 3 he needs a huge series if India are to succeed.

The gruesome ankle injury to teenager Prithvi Shaw has deprived India of their most promising young batsman. KL Rahul can consider himself lucky to be playing the first Test in Adelaide, alongside the recalled Murali Vijay who scored a breezy hundred in the warm-up match. India have named Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari in their 12-man squad for Adelaide, leaving the two batsmen in a shootout for one spot in the middle order.

Rishabh Pant has a century and two nineties in his career but his focus is in question
Rishabh Pant has a century and two nineties in his career but his focus is in question.
(IANS Photo)

Rishabh Pant has a century and two breeze scores in the nineties during his five-Test career, and faces a big challenge across these four matches in Australia. He could be the deal-breaker, no matter how you view it.

Kohli the batsman will succeed. It is written in the Instagram-laced stars. He has 1063 runs at 54.93 in eight overseas Test this year, with hundreds at Centurion, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. Stunning hundreds, really. But India have lost six of those Tests. Kohli scored two exceptional hundreds in that Test, which was his first as captain. Before the series was over, he was full-time skipper after MS Dhoni retired after the Boxing Day Test. He has back at Adelaide Oval as a man much improved, and one who is starting destiny in the eyes.

His latest innings was a match-winning 61 not out off 41 balls to lead India to a series-levelling six-wicket win over Australia in the third T20I. The fans could not get enough of him at the SCG, where each of his boundaries was cheered in a tumultuous din. It was an ominous message to Australia, the sight of most of the 37,399 spectators packed inside the SCG all backing India and chanting Kohli’s name.

We can expect a bumper series from Kohli, but if India are to beat Australia it will take something radical from each member of the team. Committing mistakes and admitting to it afterwards cannot be the way forward.