New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) Australia are now ranked at the top of the World Test Championship (WTC) table as well as on the ICC Mens Test rankings.
Australia is also the only visiting team apart from England to have won a Test in India since December 2012, having defeated the hosts by a whopping 333 runs in the first game of the 2017 series played in Pune.
We take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian team led by Pat Cummins who are itching to break a 19-year wait for a Test series victory in India:
Batters in form: Steve Smith, the talismanic Australia batter, is their best batter against spin. He averages 60 from his 12 innings in Tests in India, including three hundreds (one of which came on a rank turner in Pune, 2017) and a half-century. In 2022, Smith made 876 runs in Tests, averaging 58.40. Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head scored 957 runs and 655 runs respectively in 2022.
Usman Khawaja is another crucial figure in Australia's batting order, amassing 1275 runs at an average of 79.68 including five centuries since being recalled in 2022 against England in the Ashes. Though he's never played a Test in India, Khawaja enters the series after grabbing the men's Test Player of the Year award at the Australian Cricket Awards.
Fast bowlers and Lyon: Australia's fast bowlers -- captain Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc (to be available from Delhi Test) -- can bowl tireless spells and hustle in the heat and humidity of India.
Premier off-spinner Nathan Lyon looms as a major key for Australia to succeed in Indian conditions, with him picking 34 wickets in seven matches in the country, averaging 30.58.
Batters unproven in India: Barring Smith, the batting looks shaky for Australia as far as proving their mettle in the Indian conditions is concerned. David Warner, despite touring India twice before, averages only 24.25, with the highest score of 71. Those numbers pale in comparison to Warner's overall Test average of 46.20, and 58.39 on home soil.
Labuschagne and Head, just like Khawaja, have never played Tests in India. Labuschagne averages 33.33 in Asian conditions, while Head's average in Asia is just 21.30 and the figure for Alex Carey stands at 53.6.
Matt Renshaw, 26, played all four matches in the 2017 tour of India, scoring two half-centuries at an average of 29. Peter Handscomb is in the touring party after averaging 28.28 last time in India in 2017.
Second spinner dilemma: While Lyon's presence means Australia have a strong frontline spinner, there's a second spinner dilemma which the tourists have to solve. Other spin options are left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, who are both unproven in India, as is uncapped off-spinner Todd Murphy.
Swepson was the second spinner in Australia's tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka last year, where he struggled.
Agar returned from a five-year absence in Test cricket when he played against South Africa in Sydney, where he struggled to find rhythm in a wicketless return. With India having four quality spinners in their ranks, Australia need to find their pairing with Lyon to have a shot at winning the series.