India, the number one Test team in the world, will be begin the charge for winning their maiden Test series in Australia when the two teams face off in the first Test of the four-match series at the Adelaide Oval starting on Thursday. Ahead of the opening Test, the odds are stacked in favour of the tourists as they boast the world's best batsman in Virat Kohli, plus a high-class pace bowling attack. Moreover, Australia are without the services of Steve Smith and David Warner, making India start as overwhelming favourites.
The last time these two teams met, India won an engrossing series 2-1 at home, with Smith hitting three centuries.
But the Indians have never won a Test series in Australia and if pace bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are firing the tourists could be in for another tough time.
India suffered a huge blow ahead of the first Test with young opener Prithvi Shaw ruled out after suffering ankle ligament damage during their final warm-up game against a Cricket Australia XI.
But veteran opener Murali Vijay, who was dropped following a pair in the second Test against England this year, rose to the challenge with a century in the same match and is expected to face the new ball with KL Rahul.
India's middle order also looks in good form with Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari all hitting half-centuries in the CA XI game.
They also have an experienced set of bowlers in Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah.
Vihari and Rohit Sharma are expected to compete for the one spot as Kohli named his 12-man squad on Wednesday.
"In terms of skill, in terms of experience, in terms of how we are playing, our mindset, we definitely feel we have the ability to win a series here," said Kohli.
As far as the hosts are concerned, skipper Tim Paine says he is sick of all the ball-tampering talk and it is time to move on and focus on halting powerhouse India from winning their first Test series Down Under.
The scandal in March has haunted Australian cricket, with Steve Smith and David Warner banned.
With the world's number one Test nation awaiting them in Adelaide, Paine said it was time to start looking forward.
"There has been so much talk in the last 10 months that everyone is sick of it," he said ahead of Australia's first home Test since "Sandpapergate".
"There has been so much talk, it's time for action. There are 11 guys going out and trying their best who will be so keen because of what has gone on."
Australia, who announced their playing XI on Wednesday, gave a debut to in-form opener Marcus Harris, who will partner Aaron Finch at the top of the order with Usman Khawaja appearing to be sufficiently recovered from knee surgery to come in at number three.
Peter Handscomb and Travis Head filled the vacant middle-order spots.
India's 12-man squad:
Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
Australia's playing XI:
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Tim Paine (capt), Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc.
(With AFP inputs)