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Virat gap in tour for ages

Aussies smell a chance in Kohli absence
Virat Kohli

Our Bureau   |   Calcutta   |   Published 11.11.20, 01:54 AM

Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley feels this summer’s highly anticipated Test series against India is still “one for the ages” despite Virat Kohli’s withdrawal from the final three matches.

But former Australia captain Michael Clarke said the news is a “massive punch in the face” for Test cricket, which he fears is losing out to Twenty20.

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The Team India captain has decided to return home after the first Test in Adelaide — starting December 17 — to be with his wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child around the New Year.

Clarke said he would have flipped the international fixture to ensure Kohli was available for the Tests instead of the white-ball matches preceding them.

“We’ve changed everything else, why not? I would have. If you care about Test cricket and if you had that choice for sure, you would’ve found a way,” Clarke said on Sky Sports Radio.

“Marketing, advertisement, anything we’re doing at the moment in our sport is about building up particularly Twenty20 cricket, where I feel like we need to find ways to continue to promote and market and advertise and build up Test cricket.”

Clarke is concerned about the youngsters who may be drawn away from the game’s traditional format.

“For young boys everything they’re practising now is for shorter form cricket,” Clarke said. “You add this hit on top of it that the best player in the world is not going to be part of the biggest series we have — this and the Ashes are the two biggest two series we have — that’s a massive punch in the face.”

Former national coach Darren Lehmann has forecast a summer of misery for India if the visitors cannot draw first blood in the only Test Kohli will be available to play.

The man who presided over Australia’s last success in the Border-Gavaskar series, Lehmann is expecting a turbo-charged first Test under lights in Adelaide.

“If they don’t win the first Test and he goes, I think Australia will dominate the series. That’s what I feel because he’s such a deep loss to them,” Lehmann was quoted as saying by Sydney Morning Herald. “If they don’t win that first one with Kohli, then he goes, I can’t see it getting any easier for them.”

Kohli’s confrontation with Australia skipper Tim Paine in Perth was a flashpoint during the 2018-19 series.

“The way he instructs his players and the way he goes about it in the field, they’ll lose that real energy and in your face mentality,” Lehmann said. “If Australia can get on top early they’ll get the trophy back — and quite comfortably.”

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will take over as captain once Kohli leaves.

“It will be interesting to see how they play it when he goes. He’s (Rahane) a lot tamer, I don’t know who they will have to do that role,” Lehmann said. Former Test star Michael Hussey said Kohli’s aggression provided “great theatre” for fans.

“You can tell he loves being in the fight in the middle. Sometimes it goes a bit too far but most of the time it’s pretty good banter,” Hussey said.



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