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Sourav Ganguly to Virat Kohli – ‘I expect you to win in Australia

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly expects Virat Kohli's side to register their second successive Test series win in Australia when they tour down under later this year. Ganguly stated the upcoming tour would be tougher than the previous outing of 2018-19 but said India also had the batting and bowling to do well there. "I have said that to Virat also," Ganguly told India Today in an interview. "I said, 'because you're Virat Kohli, your standards are high. When you walk to play, when you walk with your team, I, watching on TV, don't expect you to just play well against Australia. I expect you to win. So for me, that is what it is. Because you have set the standards. It's not anybody else. So, you have to live up to the standards.'"

On their 2018-19 tour, India had recorded their first Test series win in Australia, winning the four-match series 2-1. Australia were then without two of their batting mainstays Steven Smith and David Warner, who were serving a one-year ban each due to their role in the ball-tampering incident in the Cape Town Test against South Africa in 2018. Ganguly acknowledged this "milestone series" would not be as easy this time. "It's going to be a tough series," he said. "It's not going to be what it was in 2018 when they went. It's going to be a strong Australia, but our team is as good. We have the batting, we have the bowling. We just got to bat better. You know the best teams overseas, they bat well. When we were so successful away from home, in England, in Australia and in Pakistan, we were getting 400, 500 and 600 in Test matches.”

India's last international assignment was in March - a threematch ODI series against South Africa, which was called off in the wake of Covid-19 after a washout in the first game. While some of the players, including Cheteshwar Pujara and Mohammed Shami, have resumed training, one of India's major concerns will be to ensure an injury-free return of their players, especially the fast bowlers. "I have been in touch with him [Kohli], telling him, 'you have got to stay fit.' You haven't played cricket for six months, you don't want your fast bowlers to come back and get injured. They have been training, [but] training and playing cricket is different. You have got to make sure your best bowlers are ready for the tour and fit. Whether it's Shami, whether it's [Jasprit] Bumrah, whether it's Ishant [Sharma], whether it's [Hardik] Pandya, they have to be at the top of their match fitness when they land in Australia."

Ganguly further said the BCCI had thought about a roadmap to start training camps in India, but with the rising Covid-19 cases, especially in the big cities, it was "too risky" to do anything soon. "We have thought about the roadmap. We have the SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] in place. The BCCI and the NCA have worked extensively in getting the proper SOPs. That have been circulated to state associations. At the moment, there is no chance of camp because of what is happening, what the situation is in the country. It's too risky. In Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, it's just risky. So we will have to wait.”

On IPL and Asia Cup, Ganguly said, "If at all the IPL happens in October - the Asia Cup has been cancelled - so maybe August-September would be the time where we can pull the players out and get them together for 15 days. We have got things in place but at the same time, the safety of the players is very important because they are long-term assets for India. One series, one IPL is not more important than player safety. But we want it to happen provided everything is in order."

India's tour to Australia is scheduled to kick-off in October with three T20Is, followed by four Tests and three ODIs. "We just hope the number of quarantine days get reduced a bit because you don't want the players to go all the way that far and sit in hotel rooms for two weeks," Ganguly said. "It's very depressing and disappointing. So we are looking at that and December is still a long way."

The series later this year is one the most eagerly awaited series after Covid-19 disrupted cricket across the world. More so from the Australians and its Board, which is struggling financially, and the Indian series will provide the life blood. The series starts with three T20Is in October, followed by four Test matches in December and January and three ODIs thereafter. The first Test will be played at Brisbane, followed by the day-night Test at Adelaide. Melbourne and Sydney will get the customary third and fourth matches of the series.

India are ready for the challenge this time around and are expected to play the pink ball match at the Adelaide Oval, if the series goes ahead, despite the challenges posed but the coronavirus outbreak. Virat Kohli and his men will be gunning for glory down under again, knowing very well that this is their chance to silence critics once and for all. India’s series win last time came when Australia’s batting superstars Steve Smith and David Warne were still serving their international bans for their role in the ball tampering controversy.

One man who will pose a huge threat to Kohli and his men is Aussie left arm quick Mitchell Starc. The lanky paceman is really excited about bowling at the Indians in a day-night Test “I think absolutely a pink-ball Test in the series against India is a great thing,” Starc said. Having played more pink ball matches than India could be an advantage for the hosts but Starc believes that is what home advantage is all about. “In terms of an advantage, if you like, we do have a good record at home with the pink ball. That might come into a home-ground advantage and it’s no different to us going to India and they’ve got the advantage there. It’d be great to have a pink-ball contest in that series and from the little bits I’ve seen and heard, India are very much open to that as well so that’s fantastic,” Starc said.

Australia’s star off -spinner Nathan Lyon said that a Test series against India is equivalent to the Ashes and come December, their team will come out all guns blazing to avenge the series defeat of 2018-19. “You definitely don’t like losing games or series while playing for Australia. Obviously, India, a couple of years ago, they outplayed us. So, we are looking to have those guys come out here,” Lyon said. “It’s getting up there to the pinnacle series alongside Ashes. Obviously, they have got a side full of superstars and it” s going to be an amazing challenge this summer when they get out here.”

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