Relishing the challenge of squaring off against new Indian captain Virat Kohli in the fourth and final cricket Test here, Australian skipper Steve Smith today described his rival number as an “emotional character”.
“M S Dhoni has been a terrific leader for India for a long period of time. There’s no doubt about that,” Smith told reporters in the pre-match press conference here.
“We saw Virat Kohli take over the reins in that first Test and he did a pretty good job for them. He’s quite an emotional character and likes to get involved in a lot of decisions. I’m looking forward to this week again with India with another captain and hopefully we can close out the series well,” he said.
“It’s going to be a pretty big moment for me as well. It is a home Test and my favourite cricket ground in the world. I am really looking forward to leading the boys out at the SCG,” he added.
Australia have already won the series and reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after the drawn third Test in Melbourne. They have made one change to their playing eleven, with Mitchell Starc coming in for Mitchell Johnson, who sits out as a precaution owing to a hamstring strain.
Asked if Johnson would have played had the series still been undecided, Smith said, “Probably.”
“He has got a little hamstring strain. There’s no secret that there’s a pretty big summer coming up and we want him to be fresh for the ODIs and the World Cup coming up. We don’t want to risk him and hopefully he’ll be right for those.”
Johnson had been critical this past week of the pitches rolled out for the Test series, alleging that they didn’t support the bowlers too much as wickets usually do Down Under. Smith though didn’t see it as an issue.
“It looks pretty good at this stage. There’s a lot less grass than there was on the wicket last year which seamed around a bit and played a few tricks. It looks a good wicket at this stage so hopefully it will be another good Test match,” said the young captain.
“I think the wickets have been pretty good to be fair. They haven’t’ played too many tricks. It would have been nice to have the MCG pitch break up a little bit more last week, but I don’t think you can control that. It was probably more a weather thing. This wicket out here looks a bit drier and looks like it might spin a little bit in the second innings and take a bit of reverse swing,” Smith added.
However, pitch and score-lines will not be playing too heavily on the Australian team’s collective mind. They will be thinking about Phillip Hughes who played his last knock here in November and died later after being hit by a bouncer in a domestic game.
A commemorative plaque in his honour has been installed in the Australian dressing room and Hughes’ family is expected to attend the Test as well.
“Hughes was one of us. He was one of our good mates. Particularly this week, it’s going to be great to be able to walk past that plaque and see the little fellow there and give us a bit of inspiration as we’re going out on the field,” Smith said.
“We’ve just got to make sure we”re very respectful to the Hughes family who are going to be down here for this Test match. That’s very important to us and it’s very important to them. It’s going to be another emotional Test match and hopefully we can do the Hughes family proud by playing well this week,” he added.
“The boys did a terrific job in Adelaide to get themselves up for that match so quickly after the tragic incident. I think just coming back to the place where it happened, I think it is going to be extremely tough for the boys, particularly the ones that were out there on the day. Hopefully we can hold our emotions together well and end this series well,” he signed off.