Australia begin the opening Test in a scorching Adelaide on Thursday on a run of poor form and without batting powerhouses Steve Smith and David Warner, who remain banned. Without them, India could have a golden opportunity to break their series drought.

India’s hopes of a series win depend a lot on captain Virat Kohli, who is at the top of his game. However, he must get his other batters to perform if he is to grab the crowning glory of India’s first Test series victory in Australia.

Ahead of the series, a lot of former cricketers from both countries have made their predictions. Here is what they said:

VVS Laxman

“Absolutely, India will start favourites in the Test series. I feel that it is not only because Steve Smith and Warner are not there. But it is because this Indian side has the quality, and it is a settled side. The Australian side doesn’t look a settled bunch, especially in the batting department. Yes, they will miss Warner and Steve Smith, but that confidence level, the attitude and the approach you expect of an Australian player, an Australian team – the character of the Australian sides against whom I played – that character is not obvious in this Australian team.

“That’s why I feel that India have got a big chance because they are a settled unit and they will be confident. I firmly believe that the first Test will be most crucial. If the first Test goes in India’s favour and the Indian batsmen get amongst the runs, then I think it will be a series which India will win comfortably.”

Anil Kumble

“I think whether Australia has a full playing 11 or not, the potential that the current team has certainly makes this their best opportunity to win a series in Australia. They missed out in South Africa and England but this is a great opportunity to beat Australia in Australia.

Sunil Gavaskar

“India should win this series and by a 3-0 margin. Melbourne Test may end up in a draw because of rain and that’s what I feel.”

Sachin Tendulkar

“It’s difficult to make a prediction, and I generally do not, but I do feel that Virat Kohli’s team will start with the upper hand.”

Allan Border

“It’s India’s best chance for a long time because we [Australia] have got some vulnerability on the batting side of the equation. I still think we can get there. I’m going to say 2-1 to us.”

Ian Chappell

“I am going to pick Australia, but don’t ask me why I am picking them. I think the only reasonable reason I can give is that I was disappointed the way India played in England and I thought they should have won that series. Certainly, on talent, they should beat this Australian side, but there might just be something missing.”

Ricky Ponting

“Basically, it comes down to whichever team bats the best. Both fast bowling attacks are good but I think our batsmen will play better against their quicks than their batters will play against ours. India need to get off to a really good start [in the series]. If they get behind the eight ball in those first two games then they might fight back and win one Sydney or Melbourne, but it will be too late.”

Steve Waugh

“I will see this as a significant chance [for India to win the series] and they would have prepared for this tour for a long time, I think it’s going to be a really close series.”

Michael Hussey

“India played some very good cricket in the UK, have a good bowling attack and will play [Nathan] Lyon much better than England did last summer, but I think Australia can win. The Australian team has been through the worst of the turmoil and will now look forward to the cricket and will be fiercely determined to play well and in the right spirit to gain some respect back from the cricket community.”

Dean Jones

“If India don’t win this series, they will never win in Australia. India are miles better than Australia in all formats but do they have the belief, and will their fast bowlers last the distance? With India’s history, maybe this series will not be a fait accompli. I do feel the result will go India’s way to the tune of a 2-0 or 3-0 result, as I just can’t see Australia winning a Test anywhere.”

With inputs from AFP