Virat Kohli will make his Test captaincy debut in Adelaide © Getty Images
Virat Kohli will make his Test captaincy debut in Adelaide © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Dec 8, 2014

The first Test between India and Australia is set to begin at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday. In the light of the recent events, this game will be played in a sombre backdrop. Phillip Hughes’ death has shaken cricketers and fans. In his honour, the Australian team will wear their whites with the No. 408 under the Cricket Australia crest. Also, Hughes has been named the 13th man in the side. With emotions still rife, the game will perhaps make a slow start.

There is contrasting news from both camps. On the one hand, MS Dhoni, the Indian captain, is not fit to play, but on the other Michael Clarke is raring to go. Clarke will take field for the first time since his friend’s passing and it could be a very emotional occasion for the Australian skipper. But, the onus lies with him to channelize his troop’s focus into the game and put in their best effort in memory of their teammate.

Chris Rogers and David Warner will open the batting. Rogers is back facing India, the team against whom he had made his Test debut back in 2008. He knows how crucial this series is as he tries to prolong his stay at the highest level. Warner also comes into this game with a very emotional mindset. But he poses a grave threat to India. Back in 2011-12, he feasted on their bowling and showed what he is capable of. Since then, he has grown as a Test cricketer and is a much bigger threat this time.

Since Clarke has made it back, Shaun Marsh will not play. Shane Watson will bat at No. 3 followed by Clarke.  Steven Smith, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Marsh will form rest of the line-up. A lot of the onus would be on Smith, who has fashioned himself into a very dependable batsman. In the middle order, he is the rock who can guide the innings and pack a punch.

The bowling attack has the Ashes-winning look. Mitchell Johnson is the spearhead with trusted cohorts Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. There is some pressure on Siddle as he has gone through a rough time in the recent past. He was not amongst wickets in UAE and that puts him in a spot. He has held on to his spot ahead of Josh Hazlewood, the youngster. Then there is Harris, who was not sure whether he would make the Test, but is fit and mentally ready to go.

Nathan Lyon has also been through a lean run. The challenge against India would be greater as he comes up against a side that love to play spin. Back in 2012, he had a successful time in Adelaide and would want to replicate that. Moeen Ali’s success against India earlier this year would perhaps motivate Lyon. If an innocuous off-spinner could damage India, so a skilled Lyon should have a very good chance.

Moving over to India, they have a fairly settled line-up. Barring a last-minute change, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay will open the batting. While Vijay had a good run in England to start with, Dhawan found himself out after three Tests. This is his chance to correct things and make it count. His success in New Zealand should motivate him to come good.

The real focus in the Indian batting line-up would be around Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, the skipper for this game. Both hold the key to India’s fortunes in Tests; their failures in England had a huge bearing on India’s fate; they had a good time in South Africa, where they had dealt with the pace and bounce very well. That should hold them in good stead ahead of this series.

Ajinkya Rahane holds on to his No. 5 spot. Wriddhiman Saha will keep in Dhoni’s absence. The real tussle in the middle would be whether India plan to play two spinners and bring in a Ravindra Jadeja to bat at No. 7 or get a specialist batsman. In that case, they have to choose between Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina, with the former having a better chance. Ravichandran Ashwin will be the spinner, though the option of Jadeja cannot be ruled out.

Ishant Sharma will be the spearhead of the Indian attack. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar ruled out due to injury, India will have to choose between Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav, which may not be an easy choice. Considering their identical nature of bowling, India will probably play Shami and one of Aaron and Umesh.

Last week, cricket had got off and running in Sharjah after Hughes’ passing away. Now, it is set to get back in Australia, a nation still mourning the loss of a promising young batsman. The sorrow may lurk in the backdrop, but there is a match to be played. Expect Australia to be ready for the challenge against an Indian team wanting to prove itself overseas.

Teams:

Australia: Michael Clarke (c), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin (wk), Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.

India (squad): Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Naman Ojha, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.

Time: 10:30 local | 00:00 GMT | 05:30 IST

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)