After Sydney humiliation, India look up to Rahane for leadership at MCG

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Ajinkya Rahane tries to complete his run during the first test match of the series in Adelaide

Shane Warne says the hosts will blow away India in the second Test of the four-match series, beginning December 26 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

Our Bureau
Melbourne 

In a massive shock, India stumbled to an eight-wicket loss in the first Test of the series. On the third day of the first Test, India was bundled out for 36 in the second innings and Australia was given a mediocre target of 90 runs to go 1-0 ahead. Australia chased down the total comfortably inside 21 overs with eight wickets in hand.

The Virat Kohli-led side might have had a 62-run lead entering the third day of the first Test, but the side squandered the advantage as the batsmen failed to rise to the occasion and Australia made light work of the visitors. While Josh Hazelwood scalped five wickets, Pat Cummins took four.

Now, former Australia spinner Shane Warne has said that the hosts will blow away India in the upcoming second Test of the four-match series, beginning December 26 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Skipper Virat Kohli would not be there for the visitors for the remaining three Tests as he has gone back home after being granted paternity leave by the BCCI. “I think Australia is probably going to blow them away. Having said that, they have some class players to come in like KL Rahul. Young Gill will come in. Rahane is a class act. We know what Pujara can do,” Fox Cricket quoted Warne as saying.

India will also be without pacer Mohammad Shami as the bowler fractured his arm in the first Test against Australia. Shami was hit on the arm by a bouncer bowled by Pat Cummins in the second innings.

Mohammad Shami is out of action for the remaining of the series (Photos: ICC Twitter/ ANI)

“Shami is a huge loss as well. He’s such a quality bowler. And if you look at bowlers for the Melbourne conditions — drop in pitches — Shami hits the seam and stands it up and bowls a good length and straight,” said Warne.

A big opportunity
But former India batsman Gautam Gambhir on Thursday said that Virat Kohli’s absence will be a big opportunity for Ajinkya Rahane to step up in the four-match Test series against Australia.

“In a team sport, one or two players don’t matter. If one player is coming back so someone else will get the opportunity and it’s a big opportunity for Ajinkya Rahane and I would say that it’s not just the Indian team that was bundled out for 36, there are many teams who have been bowled out for low scores but still there is a lot of cricket to play, three matches are remaining, India can make a comeback,” Gambhir told ANI. India had lost the first Test by eight wickets against Australia. In the second innings, Kohli’s team was bowled out for 36 which is India’s lowest score in Test cricket.

Virat Kohli plays a shot during the first test match of the series at Adelaide Oval

When asked about whether the team should look to make changes in the second Test, Gambhir said: “It’s the call of team management but whosoever is given the opportunity it should be given with trust and hope so that it is beneficial in the long term.”

Changes in the side 

On Thursday, India named their playing XI for the second Test. The visitors made four changes as Shubman Gill comes in for Prithvi Shaw, Ravindra Jadeja for Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant for Wriddhiman Saha, and Mohammed Siraj for Mohammad Shami. Gill and Siraj are set to make their debut in the red-ball game.

Ahead of the second Test against Australia, former chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth expressed his displeasure with Indian team management’s decision of not picking KL Rahul for the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Taking to Twitter Srikkanth wrote, “Don’t get why @klrahul11 is dropped for the boxing test! #BoxingDayTest.”

Surprisingly, there was no room for Rahul in the playing XI. The wicket-keeper batsman did not play a single game after the limited-overs series against Australia. He missed two practice matches against Australia A and the first pink-ball Test at Adelaide Oval.

Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane on Friday said it is a proud moment for him to captain India adding that the job will be a mix of opportunities and responsibilities.

“It’s a proud moment for me to captain India and obviously it’s a great opportunity and responsibility as well. I don’t want to take any pressure and I want to back my team,” Rahane said in a virtual press conference on the eve of the Boxing Day Test.

“Australians are very good at playing mind games and then let them do that. We are just focusing on ourselves; we will back ourselves as a team as a unit,” Rahane said. 

A proven record 

Former chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth feels India’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane may set different benchmarks in the ongoing Test series as he has a proven record in the longest format of the game.

Rahane, who was India’s third-highest run-scorer in the pink-ball Test, had led the side to an eight-wicket victory against Australia in the fourth Test in Dharamsala in 2017. The former India opener said Rahane has a proven track record in Test cricket and added that the team’s fortune can take a positive turn with the new skipper’s calming influence. “The new leader Rahane has a proven record in Test matches, like how he led the Indian team in Dharmshala. He has a good record in Test. As a personality also he has a calming influence on the players, he is not sort of the likes of Virat Kohli who expresses himself in an aggressive mod,” Srikkanth told ANI.

“Maybe change in fortune with the captain also and if new ideas put, he might set the different benchmark in the coming Test match,” he added.

The former Indian skipper said if Rahane proves his worth, he may be an option for the Indian selectors in the near future. “It’s too early to say because the track record of Virat is by far one of the best in Indian history as a captain. I won’t look at that way but if Rahane is able to establish himself as a Test match captain in absence of Kohli, I think it gives an option for the Indian selector and Indian team to look at,” said Srikkanth. 

Ishant backs Rahane 

India pacer Ishant Sharma feels stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane is a “bowler’s captain” and believes that the batsman will bring calmness on the field as the middle-order batsman gears up to lead the team for the remaining three Tests against Australia.

Ishant believes Rahane is a confident cricketer and loves communicating with the players on the field. “He is very confident. He is very calm. I cannot say he does not have a sense of humour, obviously, he jokes around with us. But he is very confident in what he wants to do. I must say that he’s a bowler’s captain because whenever Virat has not been around on the field, Jinks always asked me what kind of field you want, when you want to bowl just tell me, or if you want to go on (bowling),” Ishant said during an interview with ESPN Cricinfo.

Ishant Sharma

“So, I think he is a bowler’s captain. He is not someone who’ll say: do this or do that. Even when Virat is there (as captain), he (Rahane) will keep on asking, I do not know about others, but he asks me every single time: ‘How many overs you want to bowl so I will speak to Virat’,” he added.

While admitting it is not easy for everyone to match what Kohli brings to the table, Ishant said Rahane will be able to lead the team well in pressure situations.

“The kind of energy Virat brings to the table, I do not think every other person can match that… Rahane will provide calm energy, especially in a pressure situation. He will communicate with the bowlers very well,” he said.

Tribute to Dean Jones 

The opening day of the Boxing Day Test between India and Australia on Saturday will witness a special tribute to former Australia batsman Dean Jones, who passed away in September in Mumbai.

Ahead of a planned commemoration of Jones’ life during the tea break at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Jane Jones has confirmed the cause of her husband’s death was not a heart attack, but a catastrophic stroke, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The Victorian Coroner is now investigating, with the family keen to find out whether any head knocks he took while batting during his illustrious career, or a car crash he was involved in Melbourne shortly before his death, had been factors.

“It is actually under a coroner’s inquiry at the moment, not that they think there is anything other than what they have found, but just that he was a bit young to have the stroke the way it happened,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Jane as saying.

Dean was given a private farewell lap on the MCG’s hallowed turf, his favourite ground, as part of his memorial by his devastated family in October during Melbourne’s lockdown. But now comes a time when his hometown fans who enjoyed his thrilling innings over the years can pay their respects.

Earlier this year, the former Australia cricketer turned commentator passed away in Mumbai. He represented Australia in 52 Tests and 164 One-Day Internationals. 

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