Potential tough day for cricketers in 1st test
ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Six days after the funeral service for test batsman Phillip Hughes, cricket in Australia will try to put its grief behind it and return to normal on Tuesday.
Even the players are not sure how it will all transpire at the Adelaide Oval.
Australia captain Michael Clarke will play in what is expected to be an emotion-charged first test against India after overcoming a hamstring injury. India captain M.S. Dhoni, though, was not able to recover from a fractured left thumb and will be replaced by Virat Kohli, who makes his debut as test skipper.
“Yes, I will be leading tomorrow,” Kohli said. “It is a big moment for me.”
Fast bowler Mitchell Johnson says Clarke is “100 percent fit” and will lead a team Tuesday that includes paceman Josh Hazlewood as 12th man.
An honorary “13th man” will be Hughes, who died on Nov. 27 after being hit by a short-pitched delivery in a domestic match. Hughes will also be given a tribute ahead of the start of the match on Tuesday.
Johnson said Hughes’ death would be in the minds of all players.
“It’s going to be an emotional morning ... for me going out there bowling, the first spell might be the most difficult,” Johnson said Monday.
Kohli was probably closer to Hughes than most Indian players, having attended an Australian camp with him several years ago.
“It was pretty sad place for all,” Kohli said. “We tried to stay on track, but at the end of the day, we don’t want to be in a situation where we are lacking preparation.”
Johnson said Clarke’s place in the side will be a “huge boost” for the hosts.
“I think with his captaincy and he showed how strong he’s been over the past couple of weeks with the tragedy that we’ve had,” Johnson said. “He is a strong captain and we need him out there in this tough series.”
Clarke was front and center in the days following Hughes’ fatal injuries and death two days later. The captain read a family statement in the hours after the batsman died and was a pallbearer and speaker at his close friend’s funeral last Wednesday.
His hamstring issues originally would have kept him Clarke out of the scheduled first test last week at the Gabba in Brisbane. Instead, the Brisbane test was shifted to next week, and Johnson says barring any injuries, Australia will take the same team into that match.
Kohli said Dhoni would likely be fit enough to lead India at Brisbane.
Cricket Australia said spectators at the Adelaide Oval will be asked to stand for 63 seconds of applause before the match begins Tuesday. Hughes was 63 not out when he was struck by a short-pitched delivery at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Nov. 25.
The Australian players will also wear Hughes’ test cap No. 408 on their shirts.
Johnson said the pitch looked good for batting first-up, and that if Clarke won the toss, he would expect Australia to bat. The forecast for the opening day was for party cloudy skies and a high of 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
Regardless of the somber tone coming into the match, India opener Shikhar Dhawan is not expecting anything but a fired-up Australian team led by Johnson.
Dhawan hopes to react to that approach in the same way.
“I feel that you need an aggressive opener in today’s cricket which can turn things around,” Dhawan said Sunday. “So that will be a very good thing for us. And I would love to play that role.”
Australia — Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon; Josh Hazlewood (12th man), Phillip Hughes (honorary 13th man).
India — to be named Tuesday.