Australia ready to challenge India, says Michael Hussey


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It’s unclear if success against India would be enough for Australia to reclaim the No.1 ranking but they would be well on the way to the top spot.

Australia were last at the summit of world cricket in 2016 after winning in New Zealand, though they were brought back to earth with a thud by a 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka and a rare series loss at home to South Africa, prompting an overhaul of the side.

While the ball-tampering bans to Steve Smith and David Warner hurt Australia last year, it forced selectors to blood the next generation of batsmen.

They hit pay dirt with Marnus Labuschagne, who looms as a long-term first drop after backing up his strong form in the Ashes with centuries in each of the first three Tests, while Travis Head is averaging nearly 41 after 15 Tests but needs to convert more 50s into centuries.

Opener Joe Burns and Matthew Wade have also had success since being recalled though neither has cemented their place like Labuschagne.

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The team’s strength is in their bowling with pace trio Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc all in world’s top 10 and Nathan Lyon still one of the game’s premier spinners.

“I think they can really challenge India, without doubt. The batting looks strong. You’d like a bit more from Wade and Head but they haven’t really had an opportunity,” said Hussey, who made his debut during Australia’s glory era in the 2000s.

“The bowling looks world class. There is some depth there. It’s good to know someone like [James] Pattinson can come straight in. He’s a brilliant bowler in his own right.

“I think the bowling line-up looks as good as any in the world. Once you’ve got a really strong bowling line-up, keep the stability in the batting order, I certainly think Australia can get back to No.1.”

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Though Langer was criticised by former paceman Geoff Lawson for playing “favourites” after the recall of Peter Siddle to the Test squad, a notion the coach rejects, Hussey has given the thumbs-up to selectors for their patience.

Despite some poor performances from the batsmen in the Ashes, selectors did not make drastic changes for the home summer. Of the top six set to play in Melbourne, only Burns did not feature in England.

“I think the selectors have been really good. They’re looking to build continuity in the team, showing a lot of faith in the guys there,” Hussey said.

“And the players are playing well, there’s no need to talk about their place in the team.

“It’s important for this group to play together as much as they can because that helps build up the relationship, the rapport amongst each other.

“The longer they play together the better they will play as a unit. The selection has been really good. They’ve been consistent and been pretty clear with their communication of it all.”

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