Dharamsala, March 24 (IANS) With India’s regular skipper Virat Kohli’s participation in the deciding final cricket Test still under the cloud following a shoulder injury, Australia skipper Steve Smith on Friday backed vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane’s abilities to lead the hosts in the crucial game, starting on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Kohli will need to pass a fitness test on Saturday morning before his participation in the crucial match is decided. Mumbai youngster Shreyas Iyer was on Thursday drafted in as a cover to the Delhi batsman.
Smith, however, felt that Rahane understands the game pretty well and can easily shoulder the responsibility of leading the side in case Kohli misses out of the game at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium here.
“I think (India) would be fine (without Kohli). I think Ajinkya Rahane would probably step up to captain their side,” Smith said in the pre-match press conference.
“I thought he did a pretty good job last week when he was out on the field in Virat’s absence. I am confident he’ll be able to do a good job for them.”
After the shocking loss in the opening Test in Pune, India bounced back well in the second game in Bengaluru to level the series.
Charges and counter-charges took the front seat following the second Test, when Kohli raised his voice against Smith seeking the help of the Australian dressing room for deciding on a review of a leg before decision, which the latter had termed as a “brain fade”.
The drawn third Test at Ranchi was no less dramatic, with Aussie all-rounder Glenn Maxwell mocking an injured Kohli while diving to save a ball cross the boundary rope.
Kohli gave it back to the visitors with the same gestures when left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja went through the defences of opener David Warner in the second innings.
But Smith, who led his Australian side to seek blessings of the Dalai Lama earlier in the day, expects to face a different, calmer India if Kohli is ruled out.
“(Rahane) was probably a bit more chilled out on the field. Probably not quite as emotional but I think he understands the game really well,” he said.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play a fair bit of cricket with Ajinkya and he reads the game and understands the game really well, so if Virat was to miss this Test match, then I’m sure the Indian side will still be in very good hands,” the 27-year-old added.
Both Smith and Rahane are part of the Rising Pune Supergiant franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which will be led by the Australian this season.