Now the Test summer is over for another season, all eyes turn to Australia’s next assignment in the whites and who will be on the plane to India in February.
India is the final frontier for Australia, a place where they’ve won only twice since man landed on the moon in July 1969, with the pair of series victories separated by 35 barren years.
Steve Smith’s men ended 2016 on a high after a rollercoaster year that saw them become the world No.1 Test team last February before being whitewashed in Sri Lanka in the winter, losing to South Africa on home soil and then undergoing a seismic overhaul that saw half the team drastically changed and a return to winnings ways.
Having now won four Tests on the trot the Australians will be hoping to carry that momentum to the subcontinent, but just who will be in the squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is yet to be finalised.
However, a look at the past and more recent present could provide some insight as to who will be heading to India before the squad is announced sometime later this month.
Steve Smith – captain
2016-17 Test summer: M: 6 | Runs: 653 | Ave: 72.55 | 100s: 2 HS: 165no
Test matches in Asia: M: 7 | Runs: 582 | Ave: 41.57 | 100s: 1 HS: 119
Smith will lead from the front not only as the side’s skipper but as the premier player against spin bowling. It can’t be overstated enough just how much the fortunes of Australia’s tour rest on the blades of Smith and his deputy David Warner. The 27-year-old is the only player to have batted at least five times and average more than 40 in Asia since Australia’s last trip to India in 2013. A century in the last Test in Sri Lanka proved he has the stroke play and temperament to thrive in spinning conditions.
David Warner – vice-captain
2016-17 Test summer: M: 6 | Runs: 592 | Ave: 53.81 | 100s: 2 HS: 144
Test matches in Asia: M: 9 | Runs: 597 | Ave: 33.16 | 100s: 1 HS: 133
It will be a different David Warner who tours India from the one who ventured there in 2013. In the four years that have passed, Warner has scored 15 centuries, won the Allan Border Medal as Australia’s finest player in 2015 and guided Sunrisers Hyderabad to the Indian Premier League title. Nobody knows Indian conditions better than Warner and if he can get the Australia innings off to a flyer like he did at the SCG, automatically the pressure reverts back to the hosts.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 4 | Runs: 315 | Ave: 63 | 100s: 1 HS: 184
Test matches in Asia: N/A
While coach Darren Lehmann hasn’t guaranteed Renshaw will be in the starting XI for the first Test in Pune, the 20-year-old booked his ticket to India with a brilliant 184 in the final Test of the summer on an SCG wicket that offered a touch of turn for Pakistan’s spinners. Renshaw doesn’t have any experience in the subcontinent to fall back on but that could be a bonus having no pre-existing mental scars of India. A tall man with a long reach could be beneficial in India in much the same fashion as Matthew Hayden when he swept his way to a mammoth series in 2001.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 6 | Runs: 581 | Ave: 58.1 | 100s: 1 HS: 145
Test matches in Asia: M: 4 | Runs: 115| Ave: 19.16 | 100s: 0 HS: 26
Khawaja bounced back from his poor tour of Sri Lanka to become one of the rocks at the top of the order this summer. In the South Africa series that was dominated by the tourists, Khawaja posted a century and two fifties and continued that good form against Pakistan. His record in Asia isn’t ideal, but having played in Sri Lanka less than six months ago and in India for Australia A in 2015, those experiences will hold him in good stead for what he’s set to face in the subcontinent.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 4 | Runs: 399 | Ave: 99.75 | 100s: 2 HS: 110
Test matches in Asia: N/A
To average a ridiculous 99.75 and not be dismissed for anything less than 54 is a mind-boggling start to a Test career. Handscomb, at only 25, looks right at home at Test level, but will be challenged like he’s never been challenged before in India. Fortunately the Victorian is an accomplished player of spin bowling and has spent some time in India playing with the Rising Pune Supergiants in the IPL and was on the Australia A tour in 2015 where he had a mixed first-class series, scoring 91 and two ducks. As he showed in Sydney, Handscomb is a more than capable back-up wicketkeeper should anything happen to the primary gloveman.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 4 | Runs: 50 | Ave: 12.50 | 100s: 0 HS: 29
Test matches in Asia: M: 3 | Runs: 113 | Ave: 18.83 | 100s: 0 HS: 62
The wicketkeeper-batsman didn’t score heavily in his return to Test cricket this summer but fortunately had a firing batting line-up ahead of him. While he might not have the numbers on the board this season, Wade has invaluable experience in India. The 29-year-old stood behind the stumps in three of the four Tests in 2013 before injury cut short his tour. He has also scored a Test match century in spinning conditions when he posted 106 against the West Indies in April 2012 in Dominica. And the left-hander has the ability sweep both conventionally and reverse to which he used to great effect against Sri Lanka in the ODI series that followed last winter’s Tests.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 6 | Wickets: 28| Ave: 32.10 | BB: 4-36
Test matches in Asia: M: 6 | Wickets: 28| Ave: 25.21 | BB: 6-50
If Smith and Warner are the pillars with the bat, Mitchell Starc is Australia’s trump card with the ball. On a tour with few highlights, Starc’s performance in Sri Lanka was a shining light. The left-armer captured 24 wickets in three Tests at 15.16, bowling with extreme pace, surgical accuracy and swing with the old ball and new. A lot has been made about how much spin will be a factor in India, but if Starc replicates his Sri Lanka tour the talk will quickly turn to how to counter the Australia spearhead. Reverse swing will be a key weapon for Starc and his fellow pacemen in the subcontinent, and there are few better exponents in the world than the southpaw speedster.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 6 | Wickets: 32| Ave: 20.90 | BB: 6-89
Test matches in Asia: M: 3 | Wickets: 7| Ave: 32.71 | BB: 3-21
Hazlewood is the perfect foil for Starc. While the left-armer tries to blast out batsmen from the other end, Hazlewood keeps it tight, focuses on line and length and extracting just enough movement out of the surface to find an edge, pad or stump. The 26-year-old had a steady tour of Sri Lanka on pitches that offered plenty of assistance to the slow bowlers and not much else. Since then Hazlewood has picked up a yard of pace and was destructive at home this summer. With only two specialist fast bowlers likely to play in India the right-armer’s durability will be tested.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 6 | Wickets: 17| Ave: 49.88 | BB: 3-33
Test matches in Asia: M: 11 | Wickets: 42| Ave: 42.57 | BB: 7-94
Lyon will head to India as Australia’s most experienced campaigner in Asia with 11 Tests dating back to his debut in Sri Lanka in 2011. He will have taken a lot out of the Sri Lanka tour and how Rangana Herath performed with a lower arm, varying pace and more side spin than over spin. Unfortunately for Lyon, India possess a lot of right-handers in their top seven batsmen, but if he continues to bowl that outside off-stump line like he did against Pakistan, aiming for the rough on a good length, perhaps the 2017 tour could be Lyon’s breakthrough series in the subcontinent.
2016-17 Test summer: M: 1 | Wickets: 4| Ave: 25.75 | BB: 3-53
Test matches in Asia: M: 2 | Wickets: 7| Ave: 41.85 | BB: 2-32
O’Keefe was set to be Australia’s version of Herath in Sri Lanka and signs were looking good until injury forced him out of the series before the first Test was completed. With potentially six right-handers in India’s top seven, O’Keefe looks set to play a major part in the four Test series. And, out of the other nine players on this list, O’Keefe is the only one guaranteed of travelling to India after Cricket Australia pulled him out of the KFC Big Bash League to focus on the Test tour.