'Different kettle of fish': Paine's warning for India
Australia will prove a much tougher foe than in '18-19, says Tim Paine, ahead of rekindling Ashes-like rivalry this coming summer
1 April 2020, 12:01 PM AEST
Tim Paine has warned India that a vastly-improved Australian side awaits this coming summer when Test cricket's No.1 team arrives down under chasing a second series win here in two years.
Paine ramped up the anticipation for the return of Virat Kohli and his charges later this year, likening the Australia-India rivalry to the Ashes although he dismissed suggestions his team will be motivated by redemption.
Without Steve Smith and David Warner, the Aussies lost a home Test series to India for the first time ever in 2018-19, with the visitors' typically formidable top-order complemented by arguably the best fast-bowling attack they had ever brought to Australia.
Smith and Warner have since returned while Marnus Labuschagne's blossoming into a top-flight Test batter will make Australia a significantly tougher opponent this time around, according to Paine.
"No doubt that we're a better team than we were last time," said the Test skipper.
"You put in 14- or 15-thousand Test runs with Steve Smith and David Warner, and Marnus Labuschange has come on in leaps and bounds and is now in the top three or four batsmen in the world himself.
"You put that amount of runs in a cricket side that last time we didn't have (is helpful).
"This time we'll be a different kettle of fish.
"We've got three of the best batsmen in the world in our top six, we've got Matthew Wade firing and he adds some real toughness, Travis (Head) has improved a lot since he played here last time."
Another series win for India would see them become just the third team in 36 years to topple Australia away in consecutive Test series, joining South Africa (who won series in 2008-09, 12-13 and 16-17) and West Indies (84-85, 88-89, 92-93).
The common thread of those sides were world-class fast bowlers; the legendary 80s and 90s West Indians boasted the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, while South Africa's wins were heavily influenced by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada.
Jasprit Bumrah was the leading wicket taker in India's series win two years and again shapes as Kohli's key weapon.
But with Australia also possessing a first-rate attack led by Test cricket's No.1 bowler Pat Cummins, Paine suggested it will be the batters who decide the series.
"We know how good India's bowling attack is, we just weren't quite good enough - if we're totally honest - against that attack," said the 35-year-old of the 2018-19 campaign.
"I think it's going to be an exciting series … it's going to be exciting for fans.
"I think it's going to be about who handles whose attack (better). We know the conditions are going to offer the quicks a bit. I can't wait to play them."
Boosted by their retention of the Ashes abroad for the first time in nearly two decades, Australia sit second behind India on the World Test Championship standings with three more series scheduled before next year's final.
Paine has flagged that leading Australia to the maiden WTC "premiership" is his main long-term goal as the side's captain, stressing that it’s also the team's major motivator.
"It's not so much about getting one back on them – we like winning, we want to win," said Paine when asked if he will be driven by revenge over India.
"Every Test match now counts to that end goal that we're driving to, which is that Test Championship final. Points are really important and Test matches are more important than they've ever been.
"It's not so much about looking back or about trying to get them back (for) what happened last time.
"It'll be a different team they will be coming come up against and no doubt their team will be slightly different as well. It's two high-quality teams.
"It's a really (highly) anticipated series purely because of the quality of cricket, not because of what has happened before.
"India and Australia have a rivalry and it's a series a bit like the Ashes that we're really looking forward to."