Virat Kohli couldn’t have asked for a more intimidating arena than the Gabba to make his Test captaincy debut. But if you rely on the tittle-tattle in the Australian media, what happens in the series shouldn’t matter anyway if they do well in the World Cup, for Indians don’t care about Test cricket. Even if they were to do well, it would depend more on whether the captain’s girlfriend was happy and if the chefs on tour washed their hands with warm, soapy water.
The Aussies after all don’t believe in waiting for their visitors to arrive before hurling their greetings — more smug than snug. Even if the Pup is yet to start barking, the perennial 12th man of Australian cricket — the former fast bowlers, the incumbent fast bowlers and the indulgent media — has already begun his pre-tour mind games, the teaser campaign of Australianism in cricket.
And as always, it’s the opposition captain on whom they have trained their guns. India don’t reach Australia before Saturday and won’t touch down in Brisbane before December. But with two weeks still to go for the first Test, Peter Siddle has already predicted a harsh reception for Kohli from fans and players alike across Australia. Starting with the Gabba.
“There’s probably not a worse place than the Gabba for a foreigner to play their first Test as captain. The crowd gets a bit rowdy. I’ve played a few games up there for Victoria and it’s been hard work,” he had declared a couple of days after Kohli was announced as the stand-in captain in place of the injured MS Dhoni for the opening Test of the four-match series. The burly Victorian pacer had also recalled the ‘rowdy’ welcome that England fast bowler Stuart Broad had received last year in Brisbane and insisted how Kohli will be in for an encore this time. The Delhi right-hander had not really enamoured himself with the Aussie crowds either last time around after he was fined for flashing an obscene gesture towards the stands in Sydney.
You might wonder why Siddle & Co will even want to take potshots at a team that’s already riddled in self-doubt when it comes to playing overseas and was clean-swept 0-4 three years ago. Not to forget that they’ve won only one out of nine Tests they’ve played in the last 12 months with the English debacle still very fresh in their minds. To boot, the Indians will arrive in Australia with a young and inexperienced team and their longstanding skipper recuperating back home. But that is the Aussie way. They never deter from
it. For former pacer Stuart Clark, the absence of Dhoni for the first Test was a clear sign that Tests were no longer a priority for India and that it was the second half of the Australian summer that would matter more to them. “If they do well in the World Cup no one will care about the Test series over there,” he had stated. Back in the day, Glenn McGrath was the master of pre-tour trash talk and the Nostradamus of cricketing predictions. And he wasn’t to be left behind this time either. In fact, it was the pace legend who started the campaign yet again predicting that ‘India will have a tough time in Australia’ as far back as August — a day after the Test series ended in England — while the Indians were still licking their wounds from the drubbing that James Anderson & Co had inflicted on them. Long history Build-ups of India’s tours to Australia are rarely without drama. If in 1999-00, Jaywant Lele foresaw a 3-0 thrashing for his own team, express pacer Shaun Tait had vowed to get the Indians jumping and expose their short-ball weaknesses prior to the 2007-08 tour. As always, the Aussie press have joined in the fun, even if it means going to bizarre lengths to add fuel to the burgeoning fire. One writer wondered if India’s quest will be derailed if Anushka Sharma wasn’t allowed to travel with Kohli. Another stressed on the various culinary demands that the tourists were planning to make, not forgetting to reminisce about the fate that befell England — a 5-0 thrashing in the Ashes — after they had infamously appealed for a gourmet menu last year. And over the next two months, Kohli & Co will have to find a way to quell the intimidation of the Aussie pace and the intimidatory tactics of literally a whole nation ganging up against them.