India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is expected to join the team ahead of the rescheduled first Test, commencing in Adelaide on December 9.
Owing to a hand injury, Dhoni had not been named in the original squad for the first Test, earlier scheduled to be played in Brisbane from December 4. He was earlier expected to join the team for the ‘second Test’ in Adelaide, which was originally starting on December 12.
The tragic demise of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes resulted in the rescheduling of the four-match Test series.
Thus, now the Indian captain will be able to join the team sometime this week, before the Test series begins.
As per the new schedule released by Cricket Australia late last night, the first Test of the four-match series will now be played in Adelaide from December 9-12, while second game will be held at Gabba in Brisbane from December 17-21.
The Boxing Day Test — the third one of the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy — was the only Test whose schedule has remained unchanged. It will start in Melbourne on December 26.
The fourth Test will be played in Sydney but with a delay of three days, now starting on January 6 instead of January 3.
The Indian team will be playing its second practice match at the Glenelg Oval in sub-urban Adelaide ahead of the first Test. It will be a two-day game, beginning December 4. The opposition for that tie will be another Cricket Australia XI, though it will expectantly be devoid of any big names since the players are in mourning. India’s second tour-game had got cancelled after Hughes’ death.
Dhoni, however, will be unavailable for the practice game as he is not likely to join before December 4.
Indian team spokesperson Dr. Redhills Baba said that the skipper, though, will join the team well ahead of the first Test, which means stand-in captain Virat Kohli will not lead the side when the series gets underway at the Adelaide Oval.
Meanwhile, Kohli will be attending Hughes’ funeral in the late cricketer’s home-town, Macksville on Wednesday. He will be joined by batsmen Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay, along with team director Ravi Shastri, coach Duncan Fletcher and team manager Arshad Ayub.
The team management expects Kohli, Sharma and Vijay to return in time for the two-day tour game, which is scheduled on Thursday.
The entire Australian cricketing fraternity will be attending the funeral, which will begin in the afternoon and will be televised by major channels here. The Australian Test squad is then expected to travel to Adelaide on Thursday and then begin preparations for the Test series.
However, Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has stated that “any grieving player is free to pull out of the match or indeed the Test series”.
“Right now there’s a funeral tomorrow and let’s just understand that’s going to be difficult enough as it is,” Sutherland said at a press conference this morning in Sydney before departing for Macksville.
“There will be a great temptation for people to speculate about who’s going to play and how they are feeling. I encourage everyone to give the players their space.
“No one will think ill of anyone who feels uncomfortable about playing. Test cricket is a different game. It is not just going out there and playing a game of sport for a couple of hours. You need to go out there and commit to five days. It will be up to the individual. Any player that is not comfortable or doesn’t fell right, or there is medical advice to suggest that they are not quite right, then we will obviously understand that and I am sure the broader public will understand that as well,” he added.
Meanwhile, there will be obvious speculation about Australian skipper Michael Clarke’s participation in the first Test. He had earlier been included in the original squad for the Brisbane Test pending a fitness test, but a small controversy had erupted that saw him at loggerheads with the national selectors over the issue.
National selector Mark Waugh had revealed that Hughes would have been in contention for a Test return if Clarke had been sidelined due to lack of fitness.
Hughes’ death put that issue on the back-burner like everything else, and Clarke has been a great leader off the pitch for Cricket Australia in this time of tragedy. However, it has also not given him any time for rehabilitation and thus, his participation in the opening Test is still a big question mark.