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by Chetan Narula Monday 8 December 2014
Virat Kohli’s coming of age as an Indian cricketer will be complete on Tuesday when he stands in for MS Dhoni as the Test captain of the visiting side.
The latter has been laid low due to a hairline fracture in his right thumb and although he has joined the visiting team in Adelaide, he is not fully fit yet to play for India.
"It is a big moment for me personally," said Kohli. "I had always dreamt of playing Test cricket and now I am getting to lead India in a test match.
"It wasn’t expected but a series of events led to it. The good thing is that I captained in the last series back home. So I had that understanding and comfort factor with the guys.
"And they respect what I want on the field which is most important thing and they have helped me feel relaxed about it."
When asked about Dhoni’s fitness timeline and indeed if medium pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be available for the Test as well, the new Test skipper replied, "We are expecting Dhoni to be a hundred per cent fit in the next few days. We want him to be fully fit before he plays a game.
"Secondly the kind of preparation he wants in Australia, it would have been too short a span for him to go into a Test with too little or no preparation. So it is a mixture of factors really but we are expecting him to be completely fit in the next few days."
India might also miss Bhuvneshwar who has a left ankle sprain. The team management expects him to pull through, but even if he doesn’t, Kohli will have to choose from Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. All of them can bowl at pace and move the ball around as well, so the new skipper will be spoilt for choice.
"I don’t think there is any debate," said Kohli, moving on to talk about the bouncer theory.
"It is a part of cricket. It is every bowler’s right to use it and we have plans and we will make use of it.
"After the 2011 World Cup, rules were changed to two bouncers an over. Players didn’t ask for it. We just followed what has been given to us and we won’t change our plans.
"We have four bowlers who can bowl quite quick. It feels good as the captain."
Of course this topic comes up in light of the death of Phillip Hughes after he was hit by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game two weeks ago. The Test series was rescheduled owing to this and as such both sides needed to recover from the impact of the death of their colleague.
"After attending the funeral I was as emotional as I was taken aback by the incident when I first heard it.
"Phillip was one of the guys I used to interact with, when he used to come on tours or even in Australia when I met him. I had done a camp with him in 2008 in Brisbane and knew him from then.
"It was equally a saddening and an emotional moment for me. But as a professional cricketer you have to move on and do what needs to be done. And move on to the next thing you have to do that is play a Test match tomorrow," Kohli said.
It will be tougher for Australia though. The cricketers have been shocked by the tragic loss of their team-mate and it was near impossible for them to play the Brisbane Test originally scheduled for 4th December.
That has now been moved to 17th December with this Adelaide Test coming forward as the series opener. More importantly, it has allowed sufficient time to the Australian players to recover and concentrate on playing cricket once again.
Cricket Australia and the South Australia Cricket Association have planned rich tributes to their late cricketer. Hughes has been declared as the 13th man for the Australian team with all the playing members wearing his cap number 408 on their Test jerseys in this first match of the series.
"It’s really special," said fast bowler Mitchell Johnson about the tribute. "His family, I think, that would make them very proud.
"I’m very proud to be able to wear that number through this Test. We’ve named him as the 13th man as well. It’s all very special.
"It’s going to be an emotional morning and probably looking at it from our first little part of the game, for me going out there and bowling the first spell might be the most difficult.
"Then we might just get into the game a bit more but I think mentally, we’ve had a few training sessions and the vibe’s good," he added.
When asked pertinently, what his reaction would be if he hit a batsman on the head, Johnson replied, "I’m not sure. It might be a different reaction this time. I haven’t hit anyone yet so I don’t know how I’m going to feel."
Perhaps the biggest boost for the Australian team at this hour is that skipper Michael Clarke has fought his hamstring problems and will be ready to play this first Test. He has been a national hero in the last two weeks, marshalling the cricketing fraternity in Australia in its most tragic time.
"It has been an emotional roller-coaster and how strong he has been as a person to stand up and do what he’s done.
"I’ve definitely seen a different side to him. It’s a huge boost to have him back in and playing for us. I think with his captaincy, he’s shown how strong he’s been over the last couple of weeks with the tragedy that we’ve had. We need him out there in this tough series," said the tear-away fast bowler.
© Cricket World 2014