Bengaluru: Arguably one of the biggest rivalries in the world at the moment, India and Australia are all set to lock horns in the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy beginning on February 9.
As part of the preparation, the Australian team has hired Maheesh Pithiya a 21-year-old spinner who bears an eerie likeness to Ravichandran Ashwin. Even as Pithiya's career developed to see him make his first-class debut for Baroda in December, his approach has stayed uncannily similar to Ashwin's, who will be one of Australia's biggest bowling threats during the four-Test series, which begins next week in Nagpur.
Spinners like Ashwin, Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja have proved the most efficacious bowlers in recent Tests in India.
As per a report in cricket.com.au, the sight of Ashwin clone at Australia's first Test tour training session was the most conspicuous of all the trips Australia has made to prepare for their trip to India. Off-spinner Ashwin might pose a significant threat to Australia, which hasn't won a Test series in India since 2004.
"Of all the stops Australia have pulled out to prepare for their trip to India, the most noticeable at their Test tour's first training session was the presence of a Ravichandran Ashwin duplicate," a report in cricket.com.au said.
"With facing spin the major focus on Thursday, Pithiya was the standout among the local 'netties', bowling tirelessly and virtually without break through the day as he troubled the likes of Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head, who all had long batting sessions. Smith and Labuschagne were typically inseparable as they batted through the morning, taking turns at the crease while the non-batter stood a short distance behind the stumps to offer feedback as they discussed different options for playing spin."
Australia and India, currently ranked No.1 and 2 respectively in both the ICC Men's Test Team Rankings and the ongoing ICC World Test Championship 2023 cycle, will meet in a four-match Test series in India. The opening Test will be played in Nagpur between February 9 and 13.
India and Australia have played in 27 Test series since their first meeting in 1947-48. Australia lead the way with 12 series wins to India's 10, while five series have been drawn.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson and David Warner.
India squad: (for the first two Tests) Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat and Suryakumar Yadav.