Former Australia pacer Glenn McGrath has said Virat Kohli‘s absence will impact India’s chances in the Test series against Australia, for the India captain is ‘worth two players’. McGrath also said Cheteshwar Pujara might not have as much of an impact as he did in the last tour given he’s coming to the series from a lengthy break from the game.
Kohli will miss the last three Tests of the tour as he’ll fly back to India for the birth of his first child.
“It will impact the series," McGrath said in a media interaction. “The player of his quality and class, for India to lose him in three out of four Tests is a big blow. It will be for the other players to step up. I can totally understand him wanting to go back for his first child’s birth.
“Kohli is worth two players; one, as a batsman and two, as the captain, setting the field with his energy and attitude. Australia would want to dominate the series and level the ledger. They have Smith and Warner back."
Pujara had made 521 runs in four matches during the previous tour, including three centuries. However, as he wasn’t a part of the IPL, he’ll be coming off a lengthy COVID-19 enforced break from the game.
“The thing he did so well last time was that he occupied the crease. He spent time in the middle just batting. He is a kind of batsman who doesn’t feel pressure when not scoring runs. That’s unique in the modern era where there are batsmen who would want to score runs after one maiden over. Pujara doesn’t have that mindset. That helped him last time, allowed him to get a lot of time and just compile runs," McGrath said.
“The fact that he hasn’t spent time in the middle, hasn’t had lot of long batting time, is going to have a big impact. He will probably have to work harder this series than the last one as he hasn’t played any cricket."
McGrath said India has a strong batting line up and has to force the pace in the first Test.
“That first Test is going to be interesting. That is a day-night Test. India haven’t played a day-night Test in Australia. At night, with the sun setting, it will probably start favouring the fast bowlers. It will be about timing, when you are bowling or batting. Virat, if he has to have an impact in the series, will have to make an impact in the only Test he is playing. That will set the tone. Two years back, the first Test win in Adelaide gave them a lot of confidence,” McGrath said.
“As far as other batsmen are concerned, Rohit Sharma is a quality batsman who hasn’t achieved at the Test level what he should be achieving. Maybe when Virat goes home, he might just step up and show what he can do. You can’t just focus on one player. You have Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul. India has a strong batting line-up."
McGrath hailed India’s pace unit but said the Australian attack is slightly better due to the presence of a left-arm pacer in Mitchell Starc.
“In early days, Indian batsmen weren’t used to the extra pace and bounce Australian wickets had. You wouldn’t say there was real fear, but it was not something they were used to. The fear factor was more about pace and bounce. I don’t think Australian wickets have the same pace and bounce. But it’s still quicker than in India. The last series win will give them a lot of confidence.
“Umesh Yadav’s got raw pace, Mohammed Shami has great control and swings the ball both ways and Bumrah is just class. He has great mental strength. His second and third spells are just as quick as his first. You have guys who, if on fire, are tough to beat. But on a par you have Josh Hazlewood, he bowls in good areas and is tall, strong.
“Then Pat Cummins is the No.1 bowler in the world. He runs in all day, always gives 100 per cent. He gets slightly different angles because of the way he runs in. Then you have left-arm Mitchell Starc. When he gets it right, he can pick four-five wickets at a go. He has got that X-factor. If both teams are bowling at the top of their game, I would probably put Australia slightly ahead only because of the left-hander, which makes a big impact.”
“Not to take anything away from the Indian fast bowlers of the past. These guys have a slightly different mindset… The confidence of the current generation sets them apart.”