Teams set for a new beginning
Dec 9-13, 2014, Adelaide Oval
Start time 10.30 local (00.00 GMT)
A fortnight ago, everyone thought the first Test would be finishing today if it hadn't already, the teams wrapping things up at the Gabba and about to move on to Adelaide Oval. They thought the series would begin without either side being led by their regular captain. They thought that Michael Clarke's hamstring was the most important issue affecting the Australian team. They thought that Phillip Hughes was a strong chance to replace Clarke in Australia's XI. Nobody ever thought cricket would witness what it has over the past two weeks. And when the tragedy of Hughes' death became a reality, nobody thought it would be a big surprise if the series was trimmed back to three Tests to give the players some grieving time.
But, here we are at the new beginning. A reworked fixture list retained all four Tests in the series, which now starts in Adelaide before moving on to Brisbane. Clarke was certain to miss the Gabba Test had it started last Thursday, but now will lead the Australians in a Test that will be more emotional than any they have played. Clarke saw Hughes as a "little brother" and struggled to hold back tears while delivering his remarkable tribute at Wednesday's funeral. Australia could not risk Clarke re-injuring his hamstring at the start of such an enormous summer, but it was also unthinkable that anyone else might lead Australia in Adelaide. Fortunately, he has looked genuinely fit at training.
MS Dhoni has also looked fit at training, but unlike Clarke has been ruled out as he continues to recover from a broken thumb. India will be captained by Virat Kohli, whose task is to ensure his men are up and ready for the challenge of a Test match given their unusual preparation. Not only was their previous Test series cancelled when West Indies pulled out, but since arriving in Australia they have had a pair of two-day matches separated by a period of mourning for Hughes and a trip to the funeral for several of the players.
But then, nothing about this match will quite be normal, as much as everyone wants to be able to switch their focus to the cricket. Tributes to Hughes will include 63 seconds of applause from the crowd and players before the match, the Australians wearing his Test number 408 on their shirts, and his being listed as "13th man" on the Australian team sheet. Many questions remain, including how the Australian players will mentally handle returning to action after farewelling their team-mate. But as Clarke said in his speech at Hughes' funeral: "We must play on".
In the spotlight
One of the great unknowns is how the tragedy of Hughes' death will affect the use of the bouncer, and the response of players and fans to its bowling. Never will that be more the case than when one of the world's fastest and most fearsome bowlers, Mitchell Johnson, is operating. There can be no doubt that England's batsmen were at times scared of Johnson during last year's Ashes campaign on these same pitches, and presumably India's batsmen will be no different this summer. It will be just as interesting to see how often Johnson uses the bouncer, and whether he gives it everything when he does.
India have few reasons to remember their previous Test tour of Australia with fondness, but it was notable as the series in which Virat Kohli came of age as a Test player. In just his second Test series, Kohli was India's leading run scorer and was third only to Clarke and Ricky Ponting on the series tally, which was a fine effort given Australia's dominance over the four Tests. He was also the only Indian to score a century, which he achieved in the fourth Test in Adelaide. Now, he returns to the same venue captaining his country.
Australia named their side on the day before the match, with Clarke passed fit and Shaun Marsh therefore left out. Josh Hazlewood was the unlucky bowler to miss selection. Shane Watson returns to the Test side after missing the series against Pakistan in the UAE due to injury, and is expected to slot in at No.3.
Australia 1 Chris Rogers, 2 David Warner, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Peter Siddle, 11 Nathan Lyon.
The absence of Dhoni means Wriddiman Saha will keep wickets and Kohli will captain India for the first time in a Test. It also appears unlikely that Bhuvneshwar Kumar will play due to an ankle injury, which would leave Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron and Mohammed Shami as the probable pace attack.
India (probable) 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Wriddiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Varun Aaron, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Mohammad Shami.
Pitch and conditions
Adelaide Oval now uses drop-in pitches but the curator Damian Hough said on match eve that he expected "a typical Adelaide Oval pitch" for the Test. "Hopefully there is a little bit in it early, it's going to be good to bat on, and then take a little bit of spin and some inconsistency later in the game," Hough said. The forecast for most of the Test is for fine weather and temperatures in the high 20s.
Stats and trivia
- Kohli will become the 32nd man to captain India in a Test
- Clarke has a remarkable record at Adelaide Oval, where in nine Tests he has scored 1279 runs at 98.38, including six centuries
- Australia begin the series ranked second and India sixth in Tests; India could drop to seventh if they lose 3-0 or 4-0
"The first spell might be the most difficult. Then we might just get back into the game a bit more."
Mitchell Johnson acknowledges it won't be easy playing after the death of Phillip Hughes
"This one of the best bowling attacks we've had in a while. Guys who are bowling with pace and they're fit."
Virat Kohli is pleased with the attack he has at his disposal
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale