CHENNAI: India have fond memories from the last time they played a Test series on the Australian soil. While they won that series 2-1, their task this time gets tougher with Virat Kohli missing the last three games of the four-match series as he goes on paternity leave.
In a chat with TOI, former Australian coach John Buchanan spoke on the series, the Kohli factor and more.
Excerpts:
How do you look at the upcoming India-Australia series?
Both teams are evenly balanced at this time. Much like the last Test series where both teams fought hard, I expect a similar battle this time around as well.

How crucial will the presence of David Warner and Steve Smith be for Australia as they look to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy?
When you look at the Australian batting line-up last time to what it will be now— there is a big change. Warner and Smith bring in a lot of experience to this line-up. Marnus Labuschange has been in great nick and so has the other batsmen, but Warner and Smith give the side a potent look.

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With Kohli missing the last three Tests as he takes a paternity leave, how much of an advantage is it for the hosts?
It will definitely be an advantage for Australia because Kohli was one of the dominant players in the last Test series the two teams played. Of course, Cheteshwar Pujara was the star of the series but Kohli’s presence in the middle was a huge factor in India winning that series. His presence on the field and in the dressing room will be missed by India.

Are you concerned about the mental well-being of players staying in a bio-bubble for a prolonged period of time?
It is certainly an issue and a majority of the Indian players and a few Australian players are coming off the bubble in the IPL. The Indian players who play in all formats of the series stay till the third week of January and that’s a very long time in the bubble. With teams isolated more than before, your leaders should be able to keep the group together. That’s where India will miss Kohli when he leaves after the first Test. Kohli has demonstrated in the last few years that he is a mature leader who keeps this Indian team together. Having said that, I am not for a moment suggesting that the ones who would lead in Kohli’s absence can’t do that.

After Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians to its 5th IPL crown there were a few who wanted the limited-overs captaincy to be given to him. Do you feel two captains will work for the Indian side?
I feel two captains- even though they both are fine players – will bring some amount of complications to the group. I am someone who believes in the one captain for all formats theory provided it doesn’t impact the player’s personal performance.
How do you assess the bowling line-up of the two sides?
If you compare the two teams’ bowling line-ups I will say Australia have their noses ahead as they have Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. It is a well-rounded bowling unit. India, on the other hand, has an accomplished line-up as well with Jasprit Bumrah at the peak of his powers. He was extremely successful the last time he toured here. Mohd Shami was good and they have good spinners in Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep. There is no doubt that this Indian attack will trouble the Australian line-up.
Justin Langer took over as coach during a tough period. How have you seen him grow into this role?
Justin was a very good choice by Cricket Australia and he was the right person at the right time. It needed a person with strong values and principles but also the ability to win players over. He has forged a strong relationship with Tim Paine and Aaron Finch and I think the results are for all to see. When he took over, Australia’s performances were less than good and he has been able to work with all and turned the team around.



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