'The key for India winning this series will be the batsmen around Kohli.'
Adam Gilchrist expects Virat Kohli to do an encore of the 2014-2015 Test series, but for India to win the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the other batsmen will have to rally around their talismanic skipper.
The first Test starts in Adelaide on December 6 and the last time around, Kohli had scored hundreds in both innings in India's heartbreaking loss at the ground.
"Going ahead into the Test series, I expect Virat Kohli will have another imperious outing like he did in 2014 (694 runs in 4 Tests. Average: 86.50). I have spoken with him these last few days, seen his confidence, and seeing the way he batted in Sydney, I will be very surprised if he doesn't," Gilchrist said.
"The key for India winning this series though will be the batsmen around him. Will they support him enough to allow India to get enough runs and give their good bowling attack enough opportunity to defend or even bowl Australia twice in a Test?" Gilly asked.
Asked if there could be a particular ploy from Australia to stop Kohli, Gilly replied, "At best, Australia will have to be patient. They will have to play good old-fashioned Test cricket. Their best hope is to make early inroads in the Indian batting and bowl at Kohli with the new ball."
"Of course, they have to attack all batsmen and not just him, especially when they are new to the crease. But they also need to know when to go defensive and play the patience game against him for long hours," he added.
Gilly conceded that India start favourites, but added that it won't take too much for Australia to be dominant in their own conditions.
"India start as favourites for this Test series mainly because they have a reasonable idea of their team composition. They have a strong understanding what combination they want to play with," he said.
"Maybe the 1-2 spots will be up for grabs, but otherwise their playing eleven is very much set. I think India have a stable Test team. Whereas if you look at Australia, I don't think their selectors are quite sure about the line-up or team balance. This is a new phase for Australian cricket," he added.
There is not much to choose between the bowling line-up of both sides, he felt, but the batting line-up that can eliminate collapses will come up trumps.
"I think either side can win the series," he said. "It won't take much for Australia to be confident in their own conditions and start dominating the series. We have seen this happen in the past."
"Both teams have top-drawer bowling attacks so it will come down to which batting line-up can eliminate collapses. Kohli talked about India's tour of England and said that when they were poor, they were really poor, and hence lost."
"India have only batted reasonably well in patches in both South Africa and England. They are favourites, but they also have to be honest with themselves," one of the greatest wicket-keeper-batsman of all time said.
Gilchrist said the 1-1 draw was an even reflection of the T20I series.
"It was a reasonably even T20I series. India were slightly the more dominant team in two matches. They were certainly unlucky in Melbourne because they were controlling that match. So the series could have finished 2-1 in their favour."
"But you never know in cricket and after their recent poor form, Australia did particularly well in this series, especially when they defended 170 odd at the Gabba," Gilchrist said.
India have been beset with batting problems on their two overseas tours this year. In South Africa, they lost 2-1 and then 4-1 in England.
The series has lost some sheen with the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, both of whom are serving year-long bans for the ball tampering scandal in South Africa in March.
Gilchrist felt there is no way Australia will be able to replace the duo.
"Smith and Warner have scored a lion's share of Australia's runs over the last couple years or so, and this is a huge loss, no doubt. They are clearly going to miss them, especially Smith because he is in the same space as Kohli."
"Kohli is the best batsman in the world across formats, but until the ban Smith was right up there, particularly in Test cricket. Warner can be very damaging and this is a massive hole. Their absence makes it a more open series for India and all the more difficult for Australia."
"Even Cameron Bancroft is a big miss," he added, "because he provided a calming influence at the top as a Test opener. In their absence, my advice for Australia would be to bat in a group. And they need to avoid what India did in South Africa and England."
"When Indian batsmen were bad in those series, they were very bad and lost Tests. So, when the moment of failure comes, Australian batsmen should try to not be as bad."
"Don't lose 10 wickets for 100-odd runs too often would be my advice."