Just how the Australians handle Kohli will be a fascinating sub-plot. The home team’s plans two years ago here were not to engage with him when he was batting, for Kohli generally thrives when emotions are high. That Kohli managed a relatively modest 282 runs at 40.8 through the four Tests perhaps showed there was some merit in Australia’s tactic.
Australian white-ball captain Aaron Finch, who played in that last Test series between the nations, said he had noticed a change in Kohli in recent times but admitted the home team needed to strike the right balance when attempting to unsettle the Indian skipper come Thursday’s opening day.
“I think the change is in the way he goes about it now. I think as a person he is probably a bit more relaxed out on the field and understands the tempo of the game,” Finch said.
“I think there will be times when things boil over and when you have got strong characters on either team that’s going to come to a head at some point. [But] there is a fine balance there, isn’t there? You don’t want him to get up and about in the contest. When he does, he can be ruthless on an opposition.”
Finch spent the recent Indian Premier League season as a teammate of Kohli with Royal Challengers Bangalore and took note of how he instilled confidence in his side.
“What really surprised me was how, he obviously does a lot of planning and preparation himself, and into the opposition, but he never focused more on the opposition than his own team,” Finch said.
“At Bangalore, he was always confident in the XI players that were picked and knew that if you played well, you had every chance of winning. I was really surprised by how confident he was in everyone, he had a lot of time for everyone. He was great around the group, a lot more relaxed. I had never played with him, I had only played against him.
“We have had some great series where he has been on another level as a player but he has been right up and about in terms of being very vocal out in the middle. It was great to see that [relaxed] side of him.”
Vihari, who places a strong emphasis on defence, had his way against the Australia A attack at the SCG. Under lights, he handled the pink ball, against pace and spin, well, and said the tourists were ready for only their second day-night Test, and first with the heavily-lacquered Kookaburra ball.
“Bounce plays a major part. We, as Indians, tend to play at every ball because of the bounce back home. But we are coping with the extra bounce pretty well,” Vihari said, adding that it was at twilight when it was most challenging to bat.
“The first two practice games, if you see, we have left the ball very well, and we are trying to acclimatise with the conditions here. Coming into the first Test, we are very well equipped with the pace and the bounce of the wickets. I am pretty sure we will do well.”
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.