The four challenges India are facing this summer
Whether it be how mentally draining a tour to Australia can be, a misfiring top order, selection mistakes or an expectation from India's fans, India have a huge month ahead of them in the upcoming test series against Australia.
On one of cricket's most picturesque grounds in the world, the Adelaide Oval, the first ball between Australia and India will be bowled come Thursday morning.
Australia have had a forgettable 2018. Despite winning handsomely in Sydney when the year was still young, it seams that ever since the four fingers (of arrogance as some suggested it was) were held up to indicate the 4-0 scoreline, sat behind a team celebrating a big Ashes win was erected, everything has gone wrong. Losses away to South Africa and Pakistan have included cheating players and a fallen captain, and resulted in a weakened Australian team for the southern hemisphere summer.
In the opposition corner is a team that has quality and talent, but would also look back on 2018 as one of more disappointment than success in the test arena. An under prepared tour of South Africa resulted in a 2-1 loss, and two close losses in England allowed for a lop sided 4-1 scoreline, one they didn't really deserve.
Now for the battle down under. One team will be looking for redemption on home soil, the other looking to make history on foreign territory, a place no sub continent team has ever won.
India face four main challenges this Australia summer.
The first one is knowing Australia are missing two 6,000 plus run scorers at test level, it's undoubtedly a weakened Australian team. Thus there is an expectation now for India to beat a team that has struggled since 'sandpaper-gate'. Where as previous teams have come with great players but not great expectations, there will be a case of 'this is our best chance to beat them on their soil since the 1980s' about this tour from some parts of India's huge legion of fans.
The second challenge is with their strong but under performing batting line up. In 2018, all with the exception of Virat Kohli have had poor years. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, despite both possessing eye catching techniques, have both had wretched years with the bat. Rahul's dead rubber century at the Oval not enough to take away from the fact he just didn't get going in that series, or in the South African series before that. Murali Vijay didn't make it as far as the Oval, and his career may have been over if it wasn't for his previous runs in Australia as well as an injury to young star Prithvi Shaw.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane both have had their moments in the two big overseas tours, but they have either been few and far between or not a big enough contribution for the team.
Virat Kohli has carried this batting line up in 2018. His 593 tuns in England was almost twice as many as Rahul's 299 and his 286 runs in the three South Africa tests was way ahead of next best Hardik Pandya who finished with 119 runs.
India's top order must stand up against a very good Australian attack. It cant be left to one player like they have done throughout this calendar year.
The third challenge facing India is for Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli to pul the right reigns in terms of selections. The non selection of Rahane for the first South African test, and Pujara for the first England test lacked logic both times. Going into a big overseas series without your trusted seasoned cricketers back fired for India. They wont make that mistake again. However they will need to make decisions regarding using Shaw when he is fit again, and which bowling attack they go with, and there will be pressure associated with such calls in a year where their instincts have let them down.
Finally India have to face their own doubts. With no sub-continent team coming to Asia and winning their is a mental hurdle for them to face.
The reality is India would have won the 1985-86 tour to Australia if not for Melbourne's wet weather that prevented them from chasing 126 for victory when they were 2/59 in the fourth innings of that test, so fear should be put into some sort of perspective that for all intents and purposes, barring a big Melbourne downpour, India have had success in Australia previously.
If India find excuses on why it's too hard to win in Australia, then they will defeat themselves. If they don't believe they can knock over Australia, even with a weakened batting line up, they will contribute to an Australian win. The cricket seen on television doesn't feature what is happening between the ears of the players, and India must believe they can be the first team to win a test series in Australia, or they simply wont achieve anything more than what previous touring teams have managed in Australia, either respectable drawn series (2003/04), hard fought lost series (2007/08) or humiliating losses.
The challenges are laid our before India. Will they surrender and fail to complete their mission down under? Or will they achieve what no other team from Asia has done before, and be victorious in Australia.
The first delivery is now not far away.