After young 26 year-old Aussie batsman Phillip Hughes’ really tragic death, action between India and Australia in the much talked about four-match Test series has finally got under way, and it is Australia who have drawn first blood by winning the first Test at Adelaide by 48 runs. The Aussie victory came with a price too. Skipper Michael Clarke was ruled out of the remainder of the series as he suffered yet another injury. Already battling back spasm, the Aussie skipper limped off the field at Adelaide Oval with a hamstring injury – an injury that needs surgery. The injury to Clarke could not have come at worse time. With the 2015 ICC World Cup to be co hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Clarke’s latest injury puts a big question mark not only on his World Cup appearance but also his career. Clarke gave enough hints of this fear turning true when he remarked he may never play again.
Injury prone Clarke’s absence means the 25 year-old Steve Smith becomes the third youngest Australia skipper in Tests after Ian Craig and Kim Hughes. It will be baptism by fire for the young middle-order batsman and one who is also a live–wire on the field. Steve Smith’s appointment came as a surprise since he pipped the likes of aggressive opener David Warner, all-rounder Shane Watson and experienced wicket-keeper Brad Haddin for the hot seat as Australian Test skipper. Though he has promised to be aggressive, it remains to be seen how Smith leads Aussies not only in the series but could well go on to lead them in the World Cup as well.
Moreover, the Aussies would be buoyed heading into the second Test at Brisbane and would love to increase their series lead to 2-0 on a lively pace track at the Gabba. The Gabba pitch will assist the likes of Mitchell Johnson and others who would relish the bounce and the pace and use it to put the Indian batsmen out of comfort.
While the Aussies will be going in for the kill, the Indian team has shown new attributes in this series – being positive and aggressive. Much credit for this transformation in India’s belief goes to stand-in skipper Virat Kohli. The Delhi batsman was sublime at Adelaide scoring two back-to-back hundreds becoming only the second batsman after the legendary former Aussie skipper Greg Chappell to score two hundreds on captaincy debut. Kohli’s captaincy earned kudos from commentators like Harsha Bhogle who wrote on Twitter: “Kohli was goung for the won and that was admirable….will remember this one for long.” Former Australia skipper and commentator Ian Chappell even suggested it is time Kohli be handed Test skipper role permanently. Kohli’s positive intent and comment “…. had we played for a draw, we would have lost by 150 runs” have given a fresh approach to the Indian team’s campaign in Australia.
Kohli’s impressive captaincy debut will now mean there will be pressure on regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni as he returns to lead India at Brisbane. Dhoni lauded young Kohli for his leadership skills, which he says are different from his style. “He has been fantastic not only as a batsman but also as a leader. Even in the ODIs he led against Sri Lanka at home, he was fantastic. He is an aggressive character and slightly different to what I am but at the end of the day you don’t want all individuals to captain the same way,” Dhoni stated to the media at Gabba ahead of the 2nd Test.
However, India has some worries ahead of Brisbane: form of opener Shikhar Dhawan, where to play Rohit Sharma and inability of Indian bowlers to bowl out Australia. How quickly India addresses these problems will determine India’s chances at Brisbane and hopes of leveling the series.