Adelaide- A peerless Virat Kohli and his “fearless” India would look to unleash their might on an Australian team which is ready for revenge but not exactly in ‘pink of health’ ahead of the first Day/Night Test starting here on Thursday.
Media mogul Kerry Packer, while promoting his path-breaking ‘World Series Day/Night Test matches’ on Channel 9 back in late 1970s, had an unforgettable caption “Big Boys Play at Night”.
Even in 2020, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate catch-line for a series where Kohli’s magnificence meets its match in Steve Smith’s manic consistency, Cheteshwar Pujara’s doggedness challenged by a much younger Marnus Labuschagne, ready to show the world that he isn’t a one-season wonder. All this would be under lights at the Adelaide Oval.
And then there are those mean fast men on both sides aiming to instill the fear of pink ball in twilight zone, creating all sorts of doubts in the batsmen’s minds.
A Josh Hazlewood versus Mohammed Shami will be as enticing a sub-plot as Jasprit Bumrah bowling those yorkers in reply to Pat Cummins’ barrage of bouncers.
With a workhorse like Ishant Sharma missing from Indian ranks and the enforcer David Warner absent in the Australian line-up, the teams are evenly placed in terms of strength.
However, there will certainly be some distinct home advantage for Australia along with the experience of playing more Day/Night Tests.
A Day/Night Test match has its own little grammar where batsmen are expected to attack in the first session while bowlers are at their peak once the sun sets, allowing the pink kookaburra to pick its pace up.
Never has an Indian team been so spoilt for choices with multiple options in place for various positions.
But Indian skipper Virat Kohli made it clear that Shubman Gill and KL Rahul will have to wait for their chances with the management deciding to stick to an out-of-form Prithvi Shaw in the opening slot.
“Shubman hasn’t got opportunities at this level yet in Test cricket, so as and when he gets an opportunity it will be great to see how he goes about things, because he is a very, very confident young man,” Kohli said on the eve of the game.
“Prithvi has performed at the Test level, but he will be playing in Australia for the first time. So, I think it is very exciting to see his progress as well.”
Can Rahul be fitted in the team at some stage?
“KL is obviously a quality player and hence he has been included back into the Test squad and you know we have to see what combination suits the balance of the team best,” skipper’s statement stressed that Hanuma Vihari, with his part-time off-breaks, is the choice for now.
For the much-speculated wicketkeeper’s slot, Wriddhiman Saha was preferred over the explosive but erratic Rishabh Pant.
In the build-up to the series, Saha’s fifty in the red-ball First-Class match was achieved in a tougher setting than Pant’s 73-ball 100 under lights against a second string Australia A attack.
Also, Umesh Yadav predictably, after his good show in the practice game, got his place in the side as the third pacer.
On Tuesday, India’s top batters were being troubled by Thangarasu Natarajan’s incoming deliveries with pink kookaburra at the Adelaide nets.
If Natarajan, at 130-plus, can trouble them so much, then Mitchell Starc, the world’s top wicket-taker in pink ball Tests, can be menacing.
At times, less options make it easier to choose and Kohli would hope that he has made the right choices so that Ajinkya Rahane can help India do an encore once he takes a break.
India (Playing XI): Virat Kohli (C), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav.
Australia: Tim Paine (C/WK), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.
Match Starts at 9:30 am IST.
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