2nd Test, Gabba: India vs Australia - Preview
Bolstered by the return of regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India will look to regroup and fight their way back into the four-match series when they face Australia on a lively Gabba wicket in the second cricket Test starting here on Wednesday.
Brisbane: Bolstered by the return of regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India will look to regroup and fight their way back into the four-match series when they face Australia on a lively Gabba wicket in the second cricket Test starting here on Wednesday.
In the absence of Dhoni, the visitors were ably led by stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, as they came very close to winning the first Test before agonisingly losing out on the fifth and final day by 48 runs in an intense chase.
Dhoni now returns to the side for the second Test after recovering from a thumb injury and will have to provide the inspiration for the young team to restore parity.
Despite his availability, India do not have a member in this squad who has played Test cricket at this ground, which is known as Australia's fortress as no opposition team has managed to win a Test here since 1988-89.
The visitors' last Test here was during the 2003-04 tour, when Sourav Ganguly set the tone with an imperious knock of 144 and Dhoni will perhaps need an act of similar inspiration when he marshals his team in the second game.
Given the young team, the first and foremost task for Dhoni will be to get the playing combination right if they have to bounce back in the series.
Dhoni's return means Wriddhiman Saha will be warming the benches. Ravindra Jadeja is also unavailable for selection owing to injury and Bhuvneshwar Kumar has already been ruled out with his replacement Dhawal Kulkarni joining the squad.
In four of their last six overseas Tests, wherein Dhoni was captain in five of them, India opted to go with a five-bowler attack.
A grassy pitch and lots of rolling a day ahead of the Test means that India's bowlers - in particular the pacemen - will perhaps take a liking to it. But they need to find their discipline first if they want to make any sort of impression on the Australian batting.
R Ashwin looked busy in practice ahead of the match and it is anticipated that he will return to the team. If India do go in with five bowlers then Rohit Sharma will have to sit out, not having done much of note in the first Test.
For Dhoni, it will also be a test of his captaincy as his record in overseas Tests is poor with five loses, three draws, one win in nine Tests, which sums up the three successive overseas series' defeats.
The Adelaide Test is yet another loss but with a difference as Virat Kohli showed a different side to the captaincy coin in his one-off Test as skipper.
Kohli set an aggressive tone in the build-up to the series and kept up the tempo until the last wicket fell, despite defeat being the overall result.
The Delhi batsman scored twin centuries and Dhoni will need him to continue his good form. Opener Murali Vijay and middle-order batsman Chetestwar Pujara were among runs, which is a positive thing for India but the form of Shikhar Dhawan is a case of worry.
While India chose to keep their playing eleven close to the chest, Australia today declared their playing XI on the eve of the match.
Their new Test captain Steven Smith did the honours and has opted for two left-arm fast bowlers with Mitchell Starc lining up next to Mitchell Johnson.
Ryan Harris is not a hundred-percent fit owing to a slight quad strain, while Peter Siddle looked below par in Adelaide and has been dropped. Shaun Marsh comes into the side in place of Michael Clarke, with Steve Smith moving himself up to the number four spot.
The most important name to be included though is that of young speedster Josh Hazlewood. His pace and bounce has been much talked about recently and it will be interesting to see how he bowls against the Indian batsmen.
Meanwhile, as Australia's 45th Test skipper, Smith can expect a stern challenge in his very first charge. India will want to hit back hard particularly seeing that an inexperienced hand is steering the hosts' ship.
A lot will depend on how Smith goes about scoring runs at the number-four spot. Clarke averages a staggering 76.92 in 9 Tests versus India at home and it is imperative that the young captain keeps that form going.
Smith is just coming off a hundred in Adelaide so he will have some breathing space to settle down. Even so, he will need to draw on the patience that he has induced in his batting-style in recent times and rely on the experience of the senior players around him.
Smith will heavily depend on the services of David Warner, who scored centuries in both the innings of the first Test, and hope that runs flow from the blades of Shane Watson and opener Chris Rogers.
If the 25-year-old finds instant success, then Smith will open a new chapter for Australian cricket.
Australia: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
India: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadea, R Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, KL Rahul, Naman Ojha.