Already missing Sachin Tendulkar from a tour of Australia for the first time in more than 20 years, India will go into the opening Test against Australia on Tuesday with a new Test captain.
M.S. Dhoni failed to recover from a broken left thumb and will be replaced by 26-year-old Virat Kohli, who captained India on a limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe last year but who has never led his country into a Test match.
Dhoni tried vainly to take part in the first Test, but the thumb injury was too severe to allow him to play. Wriddhiman Saha will be wicketkeeper in Dhoni’s place.
Kohli, India’s 32nd Test skipper, appreciates Dhoni’s advice.
“M.S. coming in is always a help for the younger guys on the team and his input is so important,” Kohli said Monday. “Just discussing plans with him, taking a few tips as to what we are thinking of doing and what he feels about them, because he’s been there, done that, seen possibly every situation in cricket.”
India hasn’t toured Australia without Tendulkar — who retired last year — since 1991. Rahul Dravid and fellow veteran V.V.S. Laxman have also retired, while international stalwart Virender Sehwag is experiencing a form slump and wasn’t named in India’s 30-man World Cup squad last week.
Kohli said his group of pace bowlers could cause Australia some trouble.
“This one of the best bowling attacks we’ve had in a while,” Kohli said. “Guys who are bowling with pace and they’re fit.”
Varun Aaron, the fastest of the Indian pace bowlers and who would be playing in his fourth Test, is likely to spearhead the visitors’ attack with Ishant Sharma.
Indian swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a question mark because of soreness in his left ankle. Kumar took 19 wickets at 26.63 on India’s recent tour of England, and was later named India’s player of the year.
Sharma, 26, is on his third tour of Australia and has offered some advice to his teammates — expect some verbal abuse from the crowds.
“Australia is a really amazing country to play cricket in,” Sharma said. “What I know from my past experience … I think you will get a hard time from the crowd as well and you have to be prepared for all these things.
“Obviously it’s mentally challenging for you when the people are saying all these things to you, and at the same time you’re handling the pressure in the center as well.”
Sharma’s two previous tours Down Under haven’t gone well. In 2007-08, he took six wickets at an average of 59.66 and four years later just five wickets at 90.20.
Kohli indicated Monday that his side will be aggressive and perhaps return some of Australia’s expected sledging on the field.
“That’s something that I play my cricket with, and that’s certainly something I’m going to use in my captaincy, as well,” he said.
“I don’t mind a fight … a bit of chat on the field. It probably makes me more determined.”