Weakest-ever Australia give strong India a good chance: Kim Hughes
India captain Virat Kohli (L) and Tim Paine, the Australian captain. (Getty Image)

Former Australia captain Kim Hughes believes this is one of the strongest Indian line-up to ever tour Down Under and feels it is formidable enough to beat a “weakened” Australia. India have never won a Test series in Australia and many believe that the hosts are weak in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, currently out serving 12-month-long bans for their involvement in the ball tampering scandal in March earlier this year.

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India put up one of their best performances in Australia during the 2003-04 tour where under Sourav Ganguly, they drew the series 1-1. The series four years later under Anil Kumble wasn’t too far behind either. However, the closest India came to winning a series was perhaps during the late 1970s, when the team, under Bishan Singh Bedi, pushed Australia before losing the series 2-3. As most of the top Australian players were part of the Kerry Packer World Series, that Australian line-up wasn’t as formidable, and Hughes was its captain.

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However, Hughes, the former Australia batsman, feels this is India’s golden chance to do what no other Indian team has done in the past and create history by beating Australia in the four-match Test series.

“I don’t think we should compare sides of two different eras. The playing conditions were different and so were the players. Without the services of Steve Smith and David Warner this is the weakest Australian side. It gives India a very good chance to win their first-ever Test series in Australia,” Hughes told Times of India. “On the other hand, this Indian line-up is one of the strongest to have toured here. More than anything it’s because most players have played in Australia before and know the conditions.”

Hughes pointed out that in order for Australia to avoid defeat, they need to stop Virat Kohli. The Indian captain has been in fabulous form of late, recently taking India to victory in the third T20I in Sydney with an unbeaten half-century. Even during India’s previous tour of Australia, Kohli was a thorn in Australia’s eye, scoring 692 runs with four centuries. Australian wicketkeeper batsman Alex Carey too had underlined the importance of stopping Kohli.

“The last time he came for a Test series in 2014, he scored loads of runs. This time as well he is looking in ominous touch. You have to dismiss Kohli when he is new to the crease because once he gets his eye in, he will make you pay. Australian bowlers must stick to the basics of bowling on the off-stump,” Hughes said.

And while India’s batting hopes will mostly be pinned on Kohli, Australia would look up to pacer Mitchell Starc to keep the Indian batsman quiet. The Starc vs Kohli battle is one that promises to be a riveting contest, and Hughes has his eye on it. “After becoming the captain, Kohli’s consistency has gone to a new level. The Kohli-Starc battle will be the one to watch out for,” he said.