There has been a lot of talk around Virat Kohli’s absence for three Tests against Australia with almost every former cricketer and expert agreeing that it would leave a deep void in the Indian batting line-up in the four-match Test series starting on December 17.
Kohli will fly back home after playing the first Test at Adelaide for the birth of his first child. Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is slated to take over as the captain of India for the remaining three Tests.
Agreeing that Kohli’s absence can be a big factor, former Australia captain Ian Chappell said captaincy should not be a problem for India in the Test series as they have Rahane.
Chappell praised Rahane’s ‘aggressive’ style of captaincy in the Dharamsala Test in 2017 to back his thoughts.
“Well, I saw him captain in one Test against Australia (in Dharamsala in March, 2017) and found his captaincy to be fabulous. He was really an aggressive captain,” Chappell told PTI during a virtual interactive session “Cricket Conversations”, anchored by senior cricket journalist Ashis Ray.
Chappell then narrated factors of Rahane’s captaincy which stood out for him.
“I remember a couple of aspects about his captaincy. What stood out for me was in the Australian first innings, Warner was going well and getting on top of Indian bowlers. He brought in Kuldeep Yadav (debutant) and he dismissed Warner.
“The second thing I remember was India chasing a low total and they lost a couple of wickets. Rahane just came in and attacked the Australian bowlers and scored some 20 odd (38 off 27 balls). I liked that approach.”
“Look, as a captain, you always have two choices — one is the aggressive route and the other is a conservative approach. I have believed that in Test cricket aggressive approach is must and Rahane is aggressive.”
While Chappell still believes that Australia might have a slight edge in Test matches but the absence of a match-winner like David Warner in Adelaide will be an advantage for India.
“Everything that could have gone wrong with opening has gone wrong. Warner is out and Joe Burns has been struggling. Luke Pucovski after another concussion, I don’t think it would be good to play him both in terms of confidence and medical point of view.”
“I think Australians will go with Joe Burns and Marcus Harris opening combination. I thought Cameron Green would have played in Sydney but after his century in the warm-up game and a couple of wickets that he picked, there may be a temptation to play him in Adelaide,” observed the decorated former Aussie captain.
Chappell also said that if Mitchell Starc is not available as he is out on compassionate grounds, there is a quality speedster in James Pattinson, who would replace him.
“But top order is the biggest concern. It’s not just about Warner’s presence but the manner in which he scores those runs as has detrimental effect on the opposition. In his absence, the responsibility will now be on Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne,” Chappell said.
While he would prefer to watch an elegant Kohli any day over an “ungainly” Smith, he did caution that if India are not able to figure out a way to dismiss him, then it will be trouble for the visitors.
So how does one bowl against Smith? “You have to unsettle him (Smith) by changing plans. If you bowl short of a length, then he will be rocking back (and hitting for fun) all day. Somehow, you have got to get him to play forward even at the cost of few runs. But you will still have some chance of getting him out,” he said.
But Chappell certainly doesn’t like the ‘Neil Wagner tactic’ that New Zealand used peppering the batsman with bouncers.
“I believe that short-pitched stuff should be used judiciously. It should be a surprise weapon. What New Zealand did was a waste of energy. If you bowl a bouncer, make it count,” he said, citing example of Andy Roberts.
“Andy used to bowl different kinds of bouncer and every time I faced him, I had to do something about it.”