India are destined for a whitewash Test series loss unless captain Virat Kohli inspires success before his departure, former Australian skipper Michael Clarke says.
Clarke also claimed that Australian pace spearhead Pat Cummins had Kohli’s measure.
Kohli will be available for three ODIs, three T20s, a tour match and the opening Test before leaving Australia to attend the birth of his first child.
If India have not tasted victory against the Australian side by then, they are going to get hammered in the four-Test series, Clarke believes.
“These one-dayers and these Twenty20s is where Virat Kohli can really stand up and lead from the front,” Clarke said on Sky Sports Radio on Tuesday.
“I think the tone he sets with this team will play a big role when he leaves, after the first Test match.
“If India don’t have success in the one-dayers and the T20s, they are in deep trouble in the Test matches and they’ll get smoked 4-0, in my opinion.”
Clarke said that Kohli, perhaps the greatest limited-overs batsman in history, remained the main man in terms of “giving it to the Australians”.
“The other one is [paceman Jasprit] Bumrah,” Clarke said.
“Opening bowler, probably the best short-form bowler in the world at the moment but his success in Test cricket has been exceptional as well.
“Again, it’s not just about the wickets he takes, it’s how he bowls. He’s got Davey Warner’s measure at the moment, he’s got him out a number of times.
“He’s quick, he’s got a really different action, so I think he needs to set the tone and be really aggressive to the Australian batters. Even to someone like Steve Smith, he’s got to use that short ball consistently and regularly, like Jofra Archer did to Steve Smith in the Ashes.
“They’ve got to take the Aussies on and those two players (Kohli and Bumrah) are India’s best two players to be aggressive to the Australians.”
Clarke said that champion opening batsman Warner and superstar fast-bowler Cummins were Australia’s tone-setters.
“[Warner] walks out to bat, he faces the first ball, he plays aggressive cricket,” Clarke said.
“It doesn’t matter what format, he really leads the forefront for the Australians in his style of play.
“Pat Cummins gets his first crack at being stand-alone vice-captain, which is a huge opportunity for him. But again, he’s had Kohli’s measure, he’s got Virat Kohli out a number of times.
“He’s going to play all three formats of the game, you’re going to see him consistently. He’s going to pay various roles; I think in the short form, you might see him open the bowling, in the Test matches, he’s going to bowl first-change.
“Again, it’s the way he bowls. It’s the tone he sets and he’s got to really stick it to the likes of [Cheteshwar] Pujara, who scored a lot of runs the last time they were here in Australia, and he’s got to continue to get Virat Kohli out if Australia want to dominate.”
The first Test will be played at Adelaide from December 17, a day/night match. Kohli will miss Tests in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The champion batsman led India to its first-ever Test series victory in Australia two years ago; a 2-1 triumph in which the home side were missing Warner and Steve Smith due to the ball-tampering scandal. India also won the ODI series on that tour, played after the Tests, while the T20 series was tied.
Kohli had a relatively modest Test series with the bat in 2018-19, making 282 runs at 40.28 across four matches with just one century. He has made six centuries from 12 Tests in Australia across his career, hitting 1,274 runs at 55.39; better than his career average of 53.62.
Pujara had a massive series last time in Australia, making 521 runs at 74.42 and notching three centuries batting at No.3. Bumrah took 21 wickets at 17.00, while Cummins took 14 wickets at 27.78.
The Boxing Day Test of that series was Australia’s last Test defeat on home soil, while the drawn Sydney Test afterwards was their last non-victory.
They have since won seven consecutive Tests at home, against Sri Lanka (two), Pakistan (two) and New Zealand (three); and retained the Ashes in England in between those victories.