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Anil Kumble: Win the first Test; Rahul Dravid: Do a 'Pujara'

Former India captains plot how India can beat Australia in the upcoming four-Test series

Nagraj Gollapudi
The Indian players pose with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney, 5th day, January 7, 2019

The Indian players pose with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy  •  David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

For Anil Kumble, India need to start well in the day-night Test in Adelaide. According to Rahul Dravid, India need to find a batsman who can do a "[Cheteshwar] Pujara" and score at least 500 runs across four Tests in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. If India manage to do that, the two former Indian captains are confident the visitors can repeat what they achieved on the 2018-19 tour: becoming the first Asian country to win a Test series in Australia.
Both Kumble and Dravid were asked for their predictions while attending a webinar on Thursday, organised by L&T Financial Services Mutual Fund's annual conclave The Winner's Circle.
"Since India is starting the Test series with a pink ball, that'll be the biggest challenge," Kumble said. "If we can stay ahead in the first Test match then India has a great chance to repeat what they did in the last Australia tour. Although with [Steven] Smith and [David] Warner coming back [after their ball-tampering bans the last time] and then Virat [Kohli] missing the three Test matches will obviously be a big factor for India. But having said that, there's enough ability within the team, be it batting or bowling."
Both Kumble, who had himself led India to Australia during their 2007-08 tour, and Dravid acknowledged that the presence of Smith and Warner, coupled with India's captain Virat Kohli returning home on paternity leave after the first Test, would make this a tougher assignment for India despite them having as good a bowling attack as Australia. And although Warner has been ruled out of the first Test in Adelaide, there remains a likely possibility of him playing the remaining three Tests of the series.
"The bowling - we probably match our fast bowling to their fast bowling," Kumble said. "The batting again matches, [but] I think we are ahead [of Australia]. So if we can get ahead in the pink-ball Test match - which obviously is Australia's strength: they've done really well in Adelaide whenever they have played a pink-ball Test; so if India can sort of get ahead against Australia in the first Test, then I will back India. But if that doesn't [happen], then it is going to be a tough ask without Virat as well in the next three [Tests]."
The pink-ball match in Adelaide, which starts on December 17, will be India's maiden overseas day-night Test and only their second day-night fixture overall, having played and beaten Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019, a game which was played with the SG ball.
The Australia series, though, will be played with the pink and red Kookaburra balls, which is a part of the home advantage that Australia enjoy. Adelaide also happens to be a happy hunting ground for Australia when it comes to day-night Tests. Overall, Australia have played seven day-night Tests at home, winning all of them, including four in Adelaide.
Otherwise too Australia have dominated in Adelaide: of the 20 Tests played at the venue this century, they have won 14, with three losses and draws each. Incidentally, Australia's last defeat in Adelaide had come against India, who had won the first match of the 2018-19 series by 31 runs.
That was only the second time India won in Adelaide this century, 15 years after Dravid's own heroics had led the visitors to victory in a Test recognised as one of the greatest in the game's history.
For India to have the "edge" over Tim Paine's Australia, Dravid said the visitors had to do what Pujara had done during the 2018-19 trip. Pujara, who had won the Player of the Series award two seasons ago, was the only batsman in that series with over 500 runs. Overall, he scored 521 runs in seven innings, including three centuries, one of which was a rescue act in Adelaide.
"Who is going to be our Pujara from last time?," Dravid, who is currently the head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), asked. "I'm saying [that because] Pujara scored 500-plus runs last time, [so] you [are] going to need one of your batsmen [to repeat that]. Either it is going to be Pujara himself - obviously it can't be Kohli because he is not going to be there for the whole [tour] - but you are going to need one of your batsmen at least in my opinion over the four Test matches to get you something like 500 runs.
"I do believe we have got a bowling attack that can take 20 wickets in those conditions. They will be challenging conditions: Australia will try and put out conditions which will support the quality of fast bowlers. So will we be able to match that?
"I think we will be able to get 20 wickets over five days. [But] will we get a batsman who will get 500-plus runs for us in the series [or not] might define it; if we can get that, then we give ourselves a great chance. If one of Smith and Warner, who missed the last series, get that then they [Australia] probably will have the edge."

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo