Former England captain Michael Atherton reckons that teams harbouring ambitions to win Test series in Australia must posses a strong pace attack. And it is this strength that will help Virat Kohli’s men put up a tough challenge against Australia when they tour the country later this year.

During the 2018-19 tour, India returned with a historic 2-1 win in the Test series but the hosts were missing two of their world-class batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner who both were serving ball-tampering bans.

This time around, a full-strength Australia will aim to balance the ledger but won’t find the task easy with the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav forming the Indian pace-attack.

“What really should give India fans hope I think Down Under is the strength of the bowling attack. It’s very, very difficult to win in Australia without a strong seam bowling attack,” Atherton said during a chat show.

In fact, one of the sea change Indian cricket has undergone, as per Atherton, is that the quality in the pace bowling department has vastly improved.

“One of the great things in the last few years from my perspective, I’ve seen this sea change really, in terms of the quality of the fast bowlers that you’ve produced. If I go back and think to when I played in India in 93, it was completely spin-based, you obviously had good fast bowlers as well but I don’t think that number in depth that you have now,” said Atherton who led England in 54 Tests.

The 52-year-old, who now commentates, is also looking forward to how Indian bowlers plan to tackle an unorthodox player like Steve Smith who is regarded as the finest Test batsmen of the current era.

“I’ll be very interested to see what India come up with (against Smith). He (Smith) is a highly unorthodox player, but I enjoy watching and for that reason. I think the game is a better game when you’ve got people who are very unusual in the way that they play,” Atherton said.

Smith, whose Test average of 62.84 is next only to the legendary Don Bradman (99.94), is successful because of his unsual technique. “If everybody played the same way, it’s a boring game. I love the fact that Steve Smith is quite unorthodox and he has success because of that. It makes it a more interesting game for me, but I don’t have any easy answers how to get Smith out,” he said.

Atherton also had words of praise for Indian batsmen who are not ‘over-coached’ and look very natural.

“The one thing I do enjoy watching about Indian batsmen is that they look very natural to me, and not over-coached and not forced, fluid and fluent and of course, no better example than that of Rohit Sharma. That top of the order is so important in Australia. Because if you can have a solid successful start there, as soon as that Kookaburra ball loses its shine, you can have some lovely batting conditions there,” he said.