Kohli the man as India eye success

Batting ace will have to lead by example in test of skill and temperament

Kohli the man as India eye success

The period of uncertainty finally appears to be over. The National anthems of both Australia and India were rehearsed to perfection on Monday afternoon and the master of ceremony repeatedly went through the flow of events, changing his expression and tone depending upon what he was announcing.

Come Tuesday, the first of the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will indeed kick on. Virat Kohli will make his debut as a Test captain, albeit as a stand-in for the injured MS Dhoni, and Michael Clarke has removed a veil of suspense around his availability, shrugging off his hamstring worry to lead an emotionally-weak Australia.

Kohli’s elevation as Test skipper and Clarke’s decision to play may seem insignificant developments given the things that have unfolded over the last two weeks or so but these two events in themselves are significant so far as Indian and Australian cricket is concerned.

While Kohli has a chance to prove that he is ready to take over the mantle of the team as and when it eventually comes to him, Clarke perhaps feels he is duty-bound to pull his players through one of their toughest challenges.

Though the official word is that Clarke was completely fit to take the field, he refrained from batting in Monday’s ‘nets’ and was spared from addressing the captain’s customary pre-match press conference. Whether he is risking his injury to steer his troubled team will be known sooner or later but this was perhaps what Australia needed in these testing times.

No Australian cricketer was affected more than Clarke by the passing away of Hughes and his presence in the final 11 sends the right message across the team that it’s time for the umpire to announce ‘play’ here at the scenic Adelaide Oval.

Without doubt, the overriding theme of this series or at least the first match will be Hughes. Having already announced their playing 11, Australia named Hughes as their ‘13th’ member. His team-mates will be sporting 408, his Test cap number, on their shirt and they will be observing 63 seconds, his last innings’ score, of applause. But this symbolism of solidarity apart, Australia will be hoping to bring their aggressive side out.

They have tried hard to portray themselves as being positive and battle-ready after days of mourning. They have bowled bouncers in the nets after much contemplation and deliberation while India have promised they won’t shy away from sending down a few of their own and that only augurs well for the greater good of Test cricket.

Given their experience and familiarity of the conditions, Aussie attack has a definite edge over India but the visiting bowling unit boasts of a quickest set of bowlers ever with Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav -- the likely trio to be in the starting line-up on Tuesday – capable of matching fire with fire. India will hope off-spinner R Ashwin plays the role of not only keeping things tight but providing crucial breakthroughs as well with the surface expected to deteriorate from the fourth day. 

It remains to be seen if India go in with a five-bowler strategy and in which case they may include either Ravindra Jadeja, who can bat a bit, or an extra paceman at the cost of a seventh batsman. Dhoni’s absence means Wriddhiman Saha will keep wickets in a Test for the first time in two years. Incidentally, Saha played his last Test here when Dhoni sat out after a one-Test ban for maintaining a slow over rate.
Australia have gone with a three-pronged pace attack in Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris who played his last Test in March this year. While they also have the luxury of Shane Watson’s effective medium-pacers, off-spinner Nathan Lyon will be the lead spinner. They can also have the services of Steven Smith’s leg-spin should the pitch aid spinners. 
While the Australians won’t seek one, they can rest assured that India will accord them no sympathy on the field with Kohli expected to match the Aussies word for word and action for action. “I don’t mind a fight… I have found out there’s no other way of playing in Australia,” declared Kohli, perhaps setting an intense tone for the series that has understandably remained free of the typical Australian gamesmanship.   
DH News Service

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