Legendary Sri Lanka batter Mahela Jayawardene has used the latest episode of The ICC Review to provide his prediction for the upcoming Test series between India and Australia.
Jayawardena was speaking to host Sanjana Ganesan on the latest edition of The ICC Review, and the former Sri Lanka captain is expecting an extremely interesting series between the two teams.
Not only do Australia and India currently occupy the top two spots on the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Rankings, but the two fierce rivals also sit on top of the ICC World Test Championship standings and are in the box seat to qualify for June's final.
And while Australia haven't won a Test series in India since 2004, Jayawardena is tipping Pat Cummins' side to break their duck during the battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that commences in Nagpur on February 9.
“I think it's always going to be a great series. I think Indian conditions and how the Australian batsmen tackle that, they do have a really good bowling unit and how do the Indian batsmen tackle that … it depends on how each team starts the series and who's got that momentum. But it will be fascinating," he said.
“It's difficult to predict, but being a Sri Lankan, I’m hoping that Australia can go all the way. Probably a 2-1 win for Australia, but it's going to be a tough one.”
India’s chances of successfully tackling that strong Australian bowling unit have been given a boost by the remarkable recent form of batter Shubman Gill.
The youngster’s stunning form in white-ball cricket has been a huge fillip to India in the shorter formats, and Jayawardene said he has what it takes to make a similar level of impact in the red-ball game.
“He's been very good, he's technically very sound and he's a good player of pace,” the Sri Lankan said of Gill. “That'll keep him in good stead against that Australian attack, but it's always going to be tough and it will be a very good series.
“He is in great form at the moment and if he converts that into red-ball cricket and have that tempo, maturity, understanding of the situations and conditions, he’d be a great asset at the top of the line-up for India. He does give them those good starts at a good tempo to put opposition bowling attacks under pressure."
Jayawardene’s home country Sri Lanka are still in with an outside chance of qualifying for the ICC World Test Championship Final, which is scheduled to be held in London in June this year.
Results between Australia and India would have to go in Sri Lanka’s favour, as well as the Lankans producing an excellent series result against New Zealand.
But Jayawardene said it is hugely encouraging for the team to even be in this situation given where his former team have come from.
“I think at the start of the Test Championship, the two-year cycle, Sri Lanka was ranked seventh or eighth in the world. They’ve played some amazing cricket, consistent cricket throughout and are right up there having an opportunity to play in that Test Championship (final)," he said.
“New Zealand are a top team and so it'll be a fascinating series and I hope that Sri Lanka can pull that off. And hopefully Australia can do Sri Lanka a few favours in India, which is also going to be a tough, tough series.”
Australia’s four-Test tour of India begins on Thursday 9 February, with the fourth and final Test scheduled to begin on 9 March.
Sri Lanka will travel to New Zealand for a two-Test tour in March, with the first match in Christchurch running concurrently with that final fixture in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.