India's cricket encounters with Australia are so closely fought that they are challenging the Ashes for prominence back home, retired Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist said on Tuesday.
Ricky Ponting's 15-man Australian squad is due to arrive in India on Sunday for a highly-anticipated four-Test series that Gilchrist hopes will live up to expectations.
"There's no doubt the upcoming series is yet again shaping up to be a fantastic series between Australia and India," Gilchrist, who retired earlier this year, told reporters here.
"It seems like every time the two nations have locked horns in the last 10 to 12 years, it's lived up to what I think has become an iconic series.
"In Australia, everyone knows the focus historically has been the Ashes (against England), but this has grown its own iconic status."
Gilchrist, in India to promote an Australian university, said he expected the tour, which begins with the first Test in Bangalore on October 9, to be hard-fought in conditions traditionally favourable to spin.
"There's no doubt the Australian team is inexperienced in regards to what we have had for the last 10 years. We've always had a very experienced team," he said.
"But that doesn't mean that these guys haven't played in these conditions before. Australia has been sending 'A' teams and youth teams over here for a number of years to educate our players on the conditions and the facilities.
"The team will definitely draw on that experience and will be very, very competitive."
Gilchrist said that Australia was going through a period of restructuring, particularly in the fast bowling attack. But he backed leg-spinner Bryce McGain to deliver.
McGain's inclusion in the squad for a Test debut aged 36 raised eyebrows back home, yet Gilchrist said it was an "inspired choice" and that the Victoria slow bowler had plenty of experience at domestic level.
"I don't think age comes into it," he said. "He's a guy that is keen, eager and has the passion."
Gilchrist tipped Ponting to have a strong series, after a disappointing run of form and injury, and said Queensland all-rounder Shane Watson -- in for the troubled Andrew Symonds -- would complement the bowling.