Haven't seen a stronger Indian team than this one: Ex-Aussie skipper Kim Hughes

Updated: Jan 19, 2017, 15:27 IST | Clayton Murzello

Former Australian skipper Kim Hughes reckons Team India led by Virat Kohli will prove that they are too good for Steve Smith & Co in next month's four-match Test series

Kim Hughes. Pic/AFP
Kim Hughes. Pic/AFP

For Kim Hughes, the signs are ominous for Steve Smith’s Australian side who compete in a four-Test series in India next month. Hughes, who led Australia on their six-Test tour of India in 1979-80, reckoned India will prove to be too good for his countrymen in the series that kicks off in Pune on February 23. 

“India have a very balanced team. They have the best batting side in the world; they’ve got depth in pace and spin bowling and R Ashwin is in a different league altogether. His ability is breathtaking and Ravindra Jadeja does a great job in keeping it tight. Plus, they are a good fielding unit,” Hughes (62) told mid-day from Perth on Monday.

In fact, he said, “I haven’t seen a stronger Indian team than this one. I watched the India vs England series on TV and I think Virat Kohli did an inspirational job as captain and his batting was absolutely sublime.” Hughes played three Test series against India – 1977-78, 1980-81 in Australia and 1979-80 on Indian soil.

He carved a 100 in the very first Test of the 1979-80 series in Chennai where both teams played out a draw. Hughes hoped the current Australian team could prevent India from winning the first Test at Pune. “You are on a hiding to nothing and could lose all four Tests if you don’t get off to a good start,” said Hughes. He reasoned that there are no tour games like in previous years to help players get back in form.

“You can bat in the nets, but that’s not the same as playing a side game and the tour could be over even before it’s begun,” he said, recalling the tour of 1979-80 when his players had two warm-up games before the series and several tour games in between the Tests.

Hughes did not point to any blatant omissions in the India-bound squad, but felt that the large amount of left-handed batsmen would be fodder for off-spinner Ashwin. “We have six to seven left-handers and that will create an issue with Ashwin coming around the wicket and bowling into the rough,” he said.

On the bowling front, Hughes was confident rookie leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson will give a good account of himself.
“Swepson turns it, but he’s not going to get too many games. The Indians play spin very well and they’ll get after Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Lyon,” Hughes said.

The 1979-80 series saw Hughes scoring 594 runs at 59-40 with one century and 50-plus scores of 86, 50, 92, 64, and 80. He takes pride in the fact that India could beat his “very young and inexperienced team” only twice and the most important takeaway from a personal point of view was that he became better at playing spin. “I was a very good player of spin in Australia, but I was a lot, lot better player of spin after I toured India. Generally, you came away from an India tour not only a better cricketer, but also a better person. I loved touring India and I recommend anyone to go there.”

Recalling his century in Chennai during the 1979-80 tour, Hughes said: “Madras is the hottest I’ve played cricket in. I remember the Indian players being affected more by the heat because they had just returned from their 1979 tour of England. I also remember the saying we put up - ‘To lose patience is to lose the battle.’ ”

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