It has been almost two years since Virat Kohli was anointed Test captain in the middle of a tough series in Australia and the batsman arrives in his pomp at a venue that’s second home for predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni. (SCORECARD)
Every time Dhoni played in Chennai, he was serenaded by thousands of whistling fans in the stands at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, as part of the (Whistle Podu) campaign of the IPL side he led, Chennai Super Kings.
Dhoni was also the biggest hero when India played a Test here --- the first Test against Australia in the 2013 series. Dhoni’s magnificent 224 overshadowed Virat Kohli’s 107 and handed Australia a demoralising defeat from where they imploded with the ‘homework-gate’, losing 0-4.
To the sea of yellow, which sways to Dhoni’s shots here, Virat Kohli’s red-and-gold brigade of Royal Challengers Bangalore haven’t had too much to shout about. The fans though have been left waiting as CSK is serving a two-year ban.
And the Indian cricket board controversially didn’t allot a men’s game to Chennai during the World Twenty20 in March following a change of guard. Three stands at the venue being refused safety clearance by civic authorities for flouting norms has also not helped the stadium’s cause.
Thus, Chennai staging its first Test for three years, and the first since Dhoni stepped down as Test skipper will be a perfect opportunity for Virat Kohli to be anointed a true successor to Dhoni in the eyes of the latter’s adoring fans.
While Virat Kohli can emulate Dhoni’s achievement against Australia in 2013 with a 4-0 series win over England, after demoralising them with a career-best 235 in the series win in the fourth Test in Mumbai, he can also ensure India extend their undefeated run to a record 18 games.
India look likely to retain the playing eleven from the Mumbai Test and continue with their three-spinner policy, although the pitch, under covers due to rain, is hard and dry. Pacer Ishant Sharma has returned to the side after his wedding and took part in Thursday’s training, and there is an outside chance of his inclusion, although he is coming after a break.
England skipper Alastair Cook, under pressure to step down after the current series with deputy Joe Root in line to take over as captain, said the visitors would give it their all as they have done in the series, though he admitted to some errors (picking an extra seamer instead of spinner at Mumbai).
Stuart Broad, who missed the Mohali and Mumbai Tests due to a heel injury, is likely to return, but unless weather intervenes, it could once again be India all the way.