If MS Dhoni decides to lead India in first Test at Adelaide, Virat Kohli will have to wait a little longer to lead India in the longer format © IANS
If MS Dhoni decides to lead India in first Test at Adelaide, Virat Kohli will have to wait a little longer to lead India in the longer format © IANS

By Chetan Narula

Adelaide: Dec 3, 2014

Team India will look to regain their focus ahead of the Test series starting next Tuesday, when they take on a Cricket Australia President’s XI side in a two-day tour game starting here tomorrow.

The match will be played at the Gliderol Stadium in Glenelg (sub-urban Adelaide), venue of India’s first tour-game last week.

The second tour-game had been cancelled owing to the demise of Australia cricketer Phillip Hughes after he was hit by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game last Tuesday. He had died in Sydney two days later, sparking an emotional outpouring throughout the sports fraternity, both in Australia and abroad. His funeral took place in his home-town Macksville today.

Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay attended the funeral on the Indian team’s behalf. They were accompanied by team director Ravi Shastri, coach Duncan Fletcher and manager Arshad Ayub. All three players are expected to be available for the match starting tomorrow as it is the only practice available before the four-match Test series gets underway next week.

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, having recovered from a hand injury, will join the team in Adelaide on Friday evening. He will, of course, miss the tour game altogether. It remains to be seen if he will be available for the first Test. If he does, as anticipated, Kohli will have to wait a little longer to lead India in the longer format.

Owing to Hughes’ demise and keeping funeral arrangements in mind, the Test series had been nearly completely rescheduled. Brisbane will no longer host the first Test, instead hosting the second starting December 17. The Adelaide Oval, Hughes’ adopted home ground for the last two seasons, will host the first Test starting December 9.

The third Test remains unchanged and will start on Boxing Day, December 26, at Melbourne. Meanwhile the fourth Test at Sydney was pushed back by three days, now starting on January 6 instead of January 3. It has also meant slight changes in the ODI tri-series schedule, also comprising England.

India will now play their opening game of the tri-series in Melbourne on January 18 against Australia, instead of playing the same game on January 16 earlier on.

While the Indian team will be afforded a practice match before it kicks off the tri-series campaign, it also need to make full use of the game starting in Glenelg tomorrow.

Foremost, their concern will be to get as much match practice under their belts as possible. It has been more than a week since the Indian team played a proper game of cricket.

While the break is welcome given their tight schedule, they also need to be in proper shape ahead of an important Test series. The major questions pertain to the bowling combination.

In the first tour-game, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav were altogether rested. The two, along with Mohammed Shami, bowled a fair share when the Indian team simulated match practice at Adelaide Oval over the weekend in place of the cancelled tour-game.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron had been the prime bowlers in the first tour-game and as such were rested from this match practice.

It is expected that all medium pacers will be given a fair go in this second game, to be played on a hastily prepared pitch, so as to narrow down three choices for the Adelaide Test. With Bhuvneshwar and Ishant selecting themselves on performance and experience, the toss-up could be between Shami and Aaron, much depending on the consistency they can produce in this tour match.

Among the spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Karn Sharma had been prominent in both the tour-game and simulated practice. With Dhoni coming back into the frame for the first Test, India might again go in with five bowlers and as such Ravindra Jadeja comes into the picture as well. The skipper’s return also puts the spotlight on Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha.

While the two are expected to be involved in the practice game, Dhoni’s availability for the first Test and his tendency to go in with five bowlers will eventually mean that both Sharma and Saha will sit out.

Alternately the only other significant worry in the batting order pertains to opener Shikhar Dhawan. He was out for only ten runs in the only innings played last week. This was his first outing in the longer format after being dropped midway through the Test series in England. It remains to be seen if third-opener in the squad, youngster KL Rahul, will be given a chance. He had sat out the first tour game completely.