By Nick Mulvenney
The death of Phillip Hughes will inevitably cast a long shadow over Australia’s delayed series against India when it finally gets underway next week at the former test batsman’s last home ground, Adelaide Oval.
There will undoubtedly be minutes of silence and black armbands to remember Hughes and his death will be still on the minds of his former team mates, not least those who were present at the Sydney Cricket Ground when he suffered the fatal blow.
The tragedy, however, should not much alter the competitive nature of a series which, after Adelaide, will continue with the rescheduled Brisbane match before the Boxing Day test in Melbourne and a delayed New Year’s encounter in Sydney.
Australia turned their fortunes around last year on the back of a fiercely aggressive brand of cricket nurtured by coach Darren Lehmann as well as the pace bowling of Mitchell Johnson, whose bouncer is a key part of his repertoire.
They are unlikely to give up any edge lightly as they take on an India touring party, who showed in their final warm-up match they will not be shy about using the short ball.
Both sides have question marks over their captains heading to Adelaide with Mahendra Singh Dhoni joining the tourists late after injuring his thumb and Michael Clarke’s recurring hamstring problems making him a doubt.
India have slumped to sixth in the world rankings after series defeats in New Zealand and England this year, while Australia are second despite a 2-0 humbling at the hands of Pakistan in October.
Australia’s showing against Pakistan highlighted their shortcomings against spin, while India have rarely thrived where the tracks are hard and bouncy, and will be seeking a first test series triumph in Australia at their 11th attempt.
The tourists lack the batting pedigree the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman brought three years ago but the 4-0 whitewash they suffered then illustrated once again that in Australia, it is the pace bowling that matters.
The hosts boast up to 10 quicks they can rotate over the series with the trio of Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle likely to get the first crack at the Indians.
Ishant Sharma will lead an inexperienced India attack and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja will be hoping the batting can keep the tourists in the contests long enough so that he can take advantage of any late turn.
The fallout from the tragic death of Hughes could have an impact on the spirit in which the matches are played, preventing any return to the acrimony of the “Bollyline” or “Monkeygate” row which marred the Sydney test on the 2007-08 India tour.