(Reuters) – Australia’s willingness to confront a brave new world without captain Michael Clarke will see Steven Smith debut as skipper today in the second test in Brisbane, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s recall to lead India has fanned fears of a return to the past.
Dhoni takes back the reins from Virat Kohli after recovering from a thumb injury but has a hard act to follow after his stand-in’s performance in Adelaide.
Batsman Kohli lost his first test in charge but emerged with reputation enhanced after back-to-back centuries and an aggressive push for victory on day five that fell short by 48 runs.
India media have long put the team’s appalling record away from home at Dhoni’s door, blaming the 33-year-old wicketkeeper’s conservative captaincy for squandering victory chances and hastening epic defeats.
His return has raised fears the team might go back into its shell at the Gabba after the chirpy defiance at Adelaide Oval.
“With Mahendra Singh Dhoni likely to be back at the helm, India must not shed the positive approach that they showed in the wonderful test in Adelaide,” Times of India columnist G. Rajaraman wrote.
“It will mean a change of mindset for Dhoni as test captain.”
Smith, Australia’s third-youngest captain, was preferred to 37-year-old wicketkeeper and vice-captain Brad Haddin as Clarke’s replacement in a vote of confidence from selectors.
Smith has already made his position clear by promoting himself to the injured Clarke’s fourth place in the batting order.
He has pledged to maintain the regular skipper’s proactive approach to captaincy but will have to do so with a very different side in Brisbane.
Barring strike bowler Mitchell Johnson, Australia will bring a new pace attack, with left-armer Mitchell Starc and debutant Josh Hazlewood coming in for the injured Ryan Harris and the dropped Peter Siddle.
Shaun Marsh has also been called in to replace Clarke in the batting order and joins his all-rounder brother Mitchell, the first siblings to make the side since the Waugh twins.
India have not won a test in five attempts at the Gabba, the last a draw in 2003, and can expect a more lively wicket than the batsman-friendly road served up in Adelaide.
The Gabba was supposed to be the venue for the opening test of the four-match series but it was switched to Adelaide and delayed to allow players to mourn the death of Australia batsman Phillip Hughes.
With the test put back nearly two weeks, the pitch is expected to be greener than intended with muggy conditions likely to add swing to the bounce.
Dhoni kept silent on the makeup of his team but offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin is expected to be recalled after being a surprise omission at Adelaide, where legspinner Karn Sharma struggled on debut.