Adelaide: The usually aggressive build-up has turned poignant owing to Phillip Hughes’ tragic death but the on-field face-off is unlikely to be anything less than high-voltage when India and Australia compete in the opening cricket Test of a four-match series, starting in Adelaide on Tuesday.
More than two weeks after landing here, India will finally get down to serious competition with Virat Kohli leading the side in place of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is still recovering from a hairline fracture in his right thumb.
Indians are also dealing with uncertainty surrounding medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar even as Australian skipper Michael Clarke was declared fit for the game.
The visitors will be hoping to reverse their last Test series’ result in this country, when under Dhoni they had lost 4-0 in 2011-12. However, that thought will not be at the forefront when the match begins tomorrow.
Instead, it will be an emotion-laden atmosphere that will welcome both teams, and for good reason. Adelaide is the adopted home of Hughes and there will be an intense outpouring of emotion before play gets underway.
Cricket Australia and South Australia Cricket Association have quite a few plans about honouring the cricketer, who was hit by a bouncer on November 24 in a Sheffield Shield game in Sydney and died two days later.
For Australian cricket, and their whole community sporting or otherwise, it has been a very tough two weeks. It is remarkable how they have mourned Hughes and celebrated every aspect of his short life, during which he played 26 Tests.
They have put cricket on the back-foot and cared for their grieving cricketers in this tragic circumstance. They were appreciative of the support they received from the BCCI and somehow managed to save the series and it remains a four-Test affair after the Brisbane Test was postponed from December 4 to December 17.
Their skipper Clarke has been a pillar of strength during this sad time. When the Indian team landed here, there was a little controversy brewing over his fitness and resultant selection for this first Test.
The way he marshalled the Australian cricketing fraternity ever since Hughes was injured, there was little doubt that he would be playing in Adelaide. And indeed, he has fought through to be ready ahead of this first encounter between the two sides.
At different times, Australian cricketers have come forth and expressed how tough it has been for them to prepare for this match. It has been an arduous process for them, getting into bat for the first time after Hughes fell, and bowl bouncers even.
After three days of team-bonding exercises and practice sessions, they are getting back to normal though. All of them have assured, come the Test, they will all give everything on the pitch and will be full of aggression.
For the visitors, this has been a long tour already, waiting two weeks for some high—voltage cricket to get underway.