Things are a lot different now. The build-up is all about how weak Australia are, and whether this is the weakest side ever from the country. Many are even wondering if the upcoming series will be competitive in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner. Some hoped the duo's suspensions would be lifted, but that is now not happening.
Such are the times for Australian cricket since the ball-tampering saga earlier this year. Off the field turmoil has been matched by poor performances on the field.
Australia have been poor across formats, unable to cope with the constant changes in search of stability. They've lost series against England, Pakistan and South Africa, apart from a tri-series in Zimbabwe involving Pakistan. The only series they won - across formats - after the infamous South Africa tour was a one-off T20I match against UAE!
Australia's home summer started with losses to South Africa in the three-match ODI series and a lone T20I. Things won't get any easier, for they'll be up against an Indian side that has been steamrolling opponents in T20Is over the last two years. Since the World T20 2016, India have won 24 of their 34 matches and lost nine. It includes victories in 10 of the 13 series in the period.
The latest of those was a three-nil whitewash of Windies at home. They did it without Virat Kohli, who is back for the Australia T20Is making the side even stronger.
All eyes in this tour will be on the four Tests, which are sandwiched between the T20s and ODIs. With no immediate major T20 event in sight, the T20 series will be all about preparing for the bigger Tests by beginning positively. It gives India's batsmen a license to have some fun, just trying to get into a good batting rhythm.
Continuing with their recent trend of naming a XII a day before the game, India have chosen to leave out Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Washington Sundar and Umesh Yadav from their 16-man squad.
The likes of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant will be part of both the T20Is and the Tests, and will see the shorter format as a sort of preparation for the longer ones. Similarly, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav too will look to adjust to the Australian length and pace.
“Our limited-overs form has been good, we just want to continue that and as a whole, throughout the tour, we want to do the little things right and have our focus really precise so that we can win more situations than the opposition,” Kohli said at the pre-match press conference. “When you step on the field, everyone has an equal opportunity of upsetting any opposition and having their day with the ball, bat or in the field and the Australian team is more than capable of doing that on even after losing their quality batsmen. We definitely will have to be at our absolute best to win against Australia in Australia.”
India found out pretty recently that playing the shorter formats before Tests isn't exactly the perfect preparation. India played ODIs and T20Is in Ireland and England before the five-Test series in England, which they ended up losing 1-4. No amount of white-ball cricket can compensate for red-ball form in overseas conditions.
But unlike red-ball cricket, white-ball form hasn't been a problem for India overseas, especially in T20Is. They won their last overseas T20I assignment, beating England 2-1 in a three-match series. They'll fancy their chances against this Australian side too, given they've rested the likes of Mitchell Starc and other big pacers ahead of the Tests.
But Australia are still a formidable unit with a few T20 specialists. Finch and D'Arcy Short can hit a few, as can Chris Lynn. Glenn Maxwell blows hot and cold. Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye and Adam Zampa are well known faces in the IPL. The challenge for Australia will be to put everything together and fire in unison.
The last time India toured Australia for a T20I series, they created a bit of history by whitewashing Australia 3-0 in 2016. More history beckons now, starting with the first game in Brisbane on Wednesday.
India XII: Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, K Khaleel Ahmed
Australia: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, D Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa
Aaron FinchBhuvneshwar KumarChris LynnGlenn MaxwellIndia vs Australia 2018Nathan Coulter-Nilerohit sharmashikhar dhawanT20 Internationalvirat kohli
First Published: November 21, 2018, 7:25 AM IST