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Australians always posed the toughest challenge, be it in their own backyard or in less familiar Indian conditions AFP & Getty Images

Of all the opponents that I encountered during my career, the Australians always posed the toughest challenge, be it in their own backyard or in less familiar Indian conditions. And I do not mean just from a skill-set perspective: the Australians that I played against, starting from the Under-19 level, were not only extremely talented, but they also never gave up, they never took a backward step, they never gave any freebies. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Australia, 1st Test at Pune

There are teams that, if things do not go their way, can start to drop their heads. Their body language takes a beating, their aggression goes out the window. But not with Australia. Never with Australia. Even if the game seemed to be drifting away from them, they would continue to come hard. Their attitude, their approach and their never-say-die spirit stemming from a culture of positivity and aggression has been their calling card, though I must admit that of late, that character and positive language has been somewhat muted.

I think it is imperative for Australia to remember what it was that made teams of the past very successful. You never got anything for free from Australia; no matter the situation, every run and every wicket had to be earned, because historically, there has been no shortage of self-belief and confidence in one s abilities as far as Australia is concerned. That is something Steven Smith and his men should draw from if they hope to be competitive in India.

Australia are coming off an impressive run in Test cricket, even if only in their own backyard. They seemed to be nose diving badly after being routed by an inexperienced Sri Lankan side in Sri Lanka towards the middle of last year, and then losing the first two Tests to South Africa at home. VVS Laxman: Excellent signs leading into defence of Champions Trophy

After the Hobart defeat that saw the series squandered, Australia s selectors decided that it was time for an overhaul, and that it was time to invest in youth. That has paid handsome dividend: Australia have won their last four Tests, and their young batting guns, especially Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb, have been impressive.

Renshaw and Handscomb, however, are on their first senior tour of India, and will be playing in conditions reasonably alien to them. As such, it will be up to the experienced trio of Smith, David Warner and Shaun Marsh to show them the way. I personally feel Australia have little to lose, and therefore they can be even more dangerous; however, for that they must remain positive and back their natural instincts. Their cricket has been based around controlled aggression, and that is exactly what they need to back this time around too.

It goes without saying that Australia must start well in Pune, otherwise this series will be as much of a disappointment as the one in 2012-13 was when India won 4-0. For that they must trust their batting, and trust themselves to take the fight to India because if they allow the Indian bowlers to keep bowling at them, it will be a sure-fire recipe for disaster. The key in India is to get off to a start, and then build on that start because it is never easy for a new batsman to straightaway walk in to quality spin. It is imperative, therefore, for those who get into the 20s and 30s to go on and make a big score. Ideally, if that is two out of Warner, Smith and Shaun Marsh, it will allow the less experienced batsmen to blossom around them. VVS Laxman: I would favour greater balance between bat and ball

While it is true that there is a distinct lack of experience in the Australian batting, this is a wonderful opportunity for the youngsters to make a mark and prove their mettle. In many ways, it is like Indian batsmen travelling to Australia or South Africa to be met by more bounce than they are used to, or going to England or New Zealand where the ball swings around a lot more than at home. To succeed in these conditions will require a great deal of character, but the rewards of success can be immense, especially from a mental perspective. Australia s preparations have been exemplary, but it will count for nothing if they do not embrace the Australianism that has been such a key driving force in champion teams of the past.

On paper, Australia s bowling will not necessarily give Indian batsmen sleepless nights, but India can be complacent only at their own peril. In Mitchell Starc Australia has a true match-winner. He is express, is extremely effective with the new ball, and is a wonderful exponent of reverse-swing as well, which means he will brook careful watching at all stages of the innings. But whether he gets commensurate support is the big question. In Sri Lanka, Starc finished with 24 wickets from three Tests, and yet Australia lost all three games, just reiterating that cricket is never a one-man sport.

As has been obvious from the warm-up game in Mumbai, the Australian spin attack is not the most threatening. Nathan Lyon is a quality performer who has been around for a long time, but he has somehow not been able to deliver on helpful pitches. VVS Laxman: Dawn of a new limited-overs era for Team India

From Australia s point of view, the spinners must lift themselves, if they are not to suffer the same fate as England. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid failed to either take wickets in a rush or tie one end up, which meant India s batsmen could score freely. What that also resulted in was Alastair Cook having to use his fast bowlers to both stem the flow of runs and take wickets, and that is never an easy proposition.

Visiting captains would ideally like to use their pace resources in short, sharp bursts with an eye on wickets, but if the spinners do not provide control, then it could mean long spells for both Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Starc has had a very big summer, bowling a substantial number of deliveries, despite a less-than-ideal preparation he had leading into the season with his left leg injury. Now he has a large workload to get through in the four Tests against India. He has pulled out of this year s IPL after being advised the same by Cricket Australia. Can he sustain himself bowling long spells in four consecutive tests is the big question.

India are high on confidence and seem to have all bases covered. During the England series in particular, their strength in depth also came to the fore when at least three first-choice players were out injured.

The best part about this Indian team is that at various stages in the nine home Tests thus far, they have had different individuals standing up and making a serious contribution. Virat and Ashwin ball have been exceptional with bat and ball respectively, but there have been various other excellent hands in both departments. The ground fielding is comparable with the best and while there is still some work to do when it comes to close-in catching, India will be very comfortable in the space that they are in now.

If they play the brand of cricket they have portrayed this season, India will be very tough to stop. I see in Virat s side the same traits that Australian sides of yore possessed. In many ways Australia will run into a mirror image of themselves. A cracking four Tests are in the offing, provided Australia imbibe the virtues that teams led by Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke possessed.

For India, there is the added incentive of remaining number one by the annual cut-off date of April 1, which brings with it a $1 million bonus from the ICC. And it will definitely not be the money that will drive the Indians.