Australia's No. 1 spin bowler Nathan Lyon has revealed members of the Test team are becoming increasingly resigned to the likelihood they will make their return to Test cricket in front of empty stadiums next summer, leading them to ponder how India's captain Virat Kohli will handle an atmosphere devoid of the noise and energy of a crowd to play to.
Back in March, the Australia ODI team played one match against New Zealand at a deserted SCG before the visitors flew home amid escalating measures against the coronavirus pandemic. While there is cautious optimism within Cricket Australia about resuming international cricket in time for the home season, there is widespread acceptance that spectators may not be permitted to watch in large groups at grounds for quite some time beyond that.
For Lyon, this would likely mean playing the 100th Test of his long and increasingly decorated career at an empty ground - he has currently played 96 matches and claimed 390 wickets, second only to Shane Warne among Australian spin bowlers. Pondering such a scenario recently, Lyon said that he and Mitchell Starc had thought about how Kohli might fare without a crowd to help bring about the combative environments in which he thrives.
"He's probably good enough to adapt to any scenario," Lyon said. "But it's funny you say that. I was actually talking to Mitch Starc the other day and we actually said that if we are playing with no crowd, it'll be quite amazing to see Virat trying to rev up the seats. It's going to be a little bit different. But Virat is a superstar. He'll be able to adapt to any climate that we're able to play in.
"I'm excited about the prospect of India coming out to Australia, it is up there with the biggest series alongside the Ashes. They're an absolute powerhouse of the cricket world. Playing in front of crowds or no crowds is out of our control. We've got to follow the advice of all the amazing medical people around the world. I haven't thought about no crowds or massive crowds - it's just about the opportunity of playing against India again. They had the wood over us last time they came over here but we're a much stronger side at the moment."
One player Lyon was adamant that Australia needed to reassess their approach to is Cheteshwar Pujara, who has long been the ice to Kohli's fire and proved the immovable object for the Australian bowling attack in 2018-19. Pujara carved out three centuries in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney to be the backbone of India's 2-1 series victory.
"I think Pujara flies under the radar a little bit when you look at the Indian side," Lyon said. "Obviously you look at Rahane and Virat and these guys. But Pujara is a wall. He's the new wall I should say. It helps that he played exceptionally well last time out here. He adapted his game. He had a bit of luck which is what you need when you're playing at the top level.
"He obviously played his absolute backside off, which for India was good to see but we're going to have to make sure that come this summer we have to come with some new plans to combat Pujara. As I said, he flies under the radar a little bit - he definitely won't he flying under the radar come this summer."
Prior to India, Australia's scheduled tour of Bangladesh has been postponed as cricket is placed on hold along with the rest of global sport with the World Test Championship - with the final slated for June 2021 - one of the tournaments likely to suffer significant disruption.
"Obviously it's disappointing to not be heading over to Bangladesh. That was going to be a massive challenge for the team," Lyon said. "It's a place where I get personally challenged as well, and somewhere I enjoy playing my cricket. Regarding the scheduling, no doubt the ICC and Cricket Australia and all the big bosses will do everything they can to make sure we're getting back and playing cricket.
"I think it's important that the two best teams over that period compete in the Test Championship final, so obviously I want to be there. I want Australia to be there. I think we're heading in the right direction, we've got a young side but we're building towards something pretty special I believe. That's a decision for the big bosses of the ICC and everyone else involved. We'll just have to wait and see."
Lyon's own winter was going to include a stint playing county cricket for Hampshire, a move that has also been scuppered by coronavirus. He is hopeful that a future visit to play a northern summer at the Rose Bowl will be arranged.
"Pretty disappointing that I wasn't able to get over to Hampshire and be part of that amazing club over there, play a lot of county cricket and hopefully help them on the way to a championship. But that's not meant to be," he said. "Throughout our Ashes build up we spent a lot of time there, which was absolutely brilliant. So there are a lot of goals to go back there. I've got a good relationship with the club. They've got some unbelievable facilities there to train with and I feel my game could go to a couple of new levels if I was able to spend some time over there during the county season."