Smith and Dhoni in different spotlights as India and Australia square off again
Australia, under new captain Steve Smith, take a one-nil series lead over India into Wednesday’s second Test in Brisbane where they have not lost a Test in 26 years.
Smith, at just 25, was anointed Monday as Australia’s 45th Test skipper after Michael Clarke suffered a fresh hamstring injury in the 48-run victory in Adelaide and was ruled out for the rest of the four-match series.
The Australians have proved formidable in steamy Brisbane where the pace and bounce of the Gabba wicket troubles touring sides, none more so than India who have not won in five attempts.
Australia’s last Gabba Test loss was against the Viv Richards-led West Indies by nine wickets in 1988.
India will also likely have a new captain with MS Dhoni expected to return to the leadership role after missing the series opener to recover from a fractured thumb.
It is bittersweet for India with Dhoni taking the reins from stand-in skipper Virat Kohli whose twin centuries had the tourists on the cusp of a remarkable come-from-behind victory in Adelaide until a late clatter of wickets on the final day.
“I would be very happy that he (Dhoni) is going to be fit and available for the second Test,” Kohli said.
“It doesn’t matter if I have the ‘C’ in front of my name or not. That doesn’t change anything as far as my mindset is concerned.”
But former Australia Test captain Ian Chappell believes Kohli should be installed as India’s full-time skipper.
“Kohli’s performance over three-and-a-half days must have tempted the selectors into thinking now is the right time to elevate him to full-time Test captaincy,” Chappell said.
“There’s no doubt that MS Dhoni has passed his use-by-date as a Test captain, and this seems the perfect time to enact the changeover.”
The teams have to back up from a three-day turnaround and the Australians are tinkering with freshening up their pace attack with Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc vying for starting roles.
“We will see how they pull up,” coach Darren Lehmann said on Sunday of the bowlers who performed in Adelaide.
“We will pick the best team to get 20 wickets. A couple of them are sore but the next day or two will tell. It’s a quick turnaround.”
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon is also expected to figure prominently at the Gabba, where he has taken 15 wickets in three Tests at 21.87.
Lyon captured a career-best 12 wickets in the match, including seven for 152 in the second innings at the Adelaide Oval, triggering a final-session collapse to steer Australia to victory.
“He did a really good job (in Brisbane) last year against England, got some key wickets,” Lehmann said. “He enjoys the bounce at the Gabba.”
India’s pace attack of Varun Aaron, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma will also relish bowling at the Gabba, while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is in line for a return.
The Indian management’s decision to hand a debut to rookie leg-spinner Karn Sharma ahead of the more experienced Ashwin in Adelaide came in for some post-match criticism.
While off-spinner Lyon picked up 12 wickets and delivered a dramatic victory to the home team on the last day, wrist-spinner Sharma ended with match figures of 4 for 238.
Despite India’s record at the Gabba, it is a match that the tourists must at least draw to still have a chance of winning the series ahead of the third Test beginning Boxing Day in Melbourne.
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Published: December 15, 2014 04:00 AM