As has been the norm in recent times, the Indian team named its 12-member squad for the opening Test of the four-Test series against Australia, starting at the Adelaide Oval from Thursday. In what is expected to be a tough contest between two quality teams, drawing first blood will be crucial and also on offer is history for Virat Kohli and his men. They are yet to win a series Down Under and with the hosts missing the services of banned duo Steve Smith and David Warner, this could be India’s best chance.
ODI deputy Rohit Sharma has been included in the 12-member team while Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav are the notable absentees. With both Rohit and Hanuma Vihari making the 12, it is clear that the Indians wish to go into the game relying on a heavy batting line-up. Kuldeep Yadav too has missed out as R Ashwin is the only spinner in the team.
The squad reads: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
The onus will once again be on skipper Kohli, who scored 692 runs in his last Test series in Australia, to lead from the front and the batsman is surely aiming to better his record this time around. The Delhi batsman looked in supreme touch in the nets.
Kohli didn’t leave any stone unturned in the nets, hitting a few lovely pull shots and some drives through the on and off side. He was weary of the ball which was directed towards his fourth stump, but dispatched everything else. He also stepped out and hit the spinners over mid-wicket for big ones.
Although not quite reaching the heights of captain Virat Kohli’s 692 runs, Rahane had a good tour the last time India visited Australia in 2014-15 with 399 runs at an average of 57.
India still lost the series 2-0, however, and the 30-year-old suggested the players had learned the importance of contributing to the team effort on that trip.
“When you do well as a team, you feel really good,” he added.
“This is a team sport ... and it is the job of each and every bat to contribute for the team. And I think it’s important that we get those long partnerships together, in Australia that will really help us a lot.”
Rahane and Kohli did that in the Boxing Day Test on the last tour, putting together a fourth-wicket stand of 262 in India’s first innings with scores of 147 and 169 respectively while illustrating their different approaches to the game.
“Last time here, we really enjoyed batting together a lot, especially at the MCG,” Rahane recalled.
“Mitchell Johnson was really going after Virat Kohli and I was at the other end playing my game. Virat at the other end was really aggressive and going after bowlers.
“I was able to focus on my game, I still attacked but I was completely the opposite to Virat.”