Australia will be a ‘bigger and stiffer challenge’ for Virat Kohli’s India when they tour the country for a four-Test series later this year, reckons batting legend Rahul Dravid. The biggest reason behind that is the return of their top-two batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner.

The last time India were on Australian shores, they returned home with a maiden Test series win. However, Australia can always look claim they were depleted in the absence of Warner and Smith who were both in the midst of their year-long bans for ball-tampering.

“Missing Smith and Warner was a huge thing for Australia because of the impact they have on that team,” Dravid was quoted as saying by PTI. “They are their (Australia’s) top two batsman, they scored the most number of runs for them.”

Smith and Warner returned to international cricket through the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. The duo then featured together on the Ashes tour of England where Warner endured a wretched series but Smith made a dream return, finishing as the top-scorer from either side.

“We have seen how a big impact someone like Smith had on the Ashes, even though Warner was out of form, he was able to carry that series along with (Marnus) Labuschagne on his own. But yes, these two guys (Smith and Warner) will make a huge impact in that team, so it will be a bigger and stiffer challenge for India this time around,” Dravid said.

“Australia will always look back on the last series and they can always say look Smith and Warner were not there, our best players were not there, but this time you are going to have all the best players of both the teams,” he added.

While Australia will come back harder, Dravid feels India have the firepower to compete and expects a closely fought series that starts from December 3 in Gabba.

“But I’d say India has got the fire power to compete and they have got top-class players. So it should be a good one, everyone is going to look forward to it,” he said. “It is going to be a great series especially after India won last time, it was a fantastic win for India.”

The 47-year-old, who scored over 24,000 runs during his storied international career, termed it as a marquee series of 2020.

“Two great teams, two top-class teams. Australia obviously back to full strength with Smith and Warner. The area where Australia struggled last time was their batting, their batting just kept collapsing, they never gave their bowlers enough to rest upon. So that is something that they will hope that doesn’t happen this time,” he said.

“India’s bowling has been fantastic over the last couple of years, so that should be great. It should be a great contest and probably marquee series of the year for the world,” he added.