Boxing Day Test buzz: Virat Kohli, Tim Paine all set for cricketing nirvana
And yet, a year after making 24 in the dreary draw against England, the Tasmanian finds himself in exactly that position
When he made his Boxing Day Test debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last year, Tim Paine could have been flattened with a feather had someone told him that 365 days on, he would be leading Australia out for the most iconic Test match in this country.
And yet, a year after making 24 in the dreary draw against England, the Tasmanian finds himself in exactly that position. The ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town in March claimed multiple victims, including skipper Steve Smith. Paine was hurriedly drafted in as the captain; he has hardly put a foot wrong off the field, and not too many on it either.
Understandably sucked in by the excitement and tension surrounding the occasion, Paine couldn't wait for the toss on the morrow. "I am really excited, am hearing there's going to be a big crowd tomorrow," he said on the eve of the match. "We know wherever the Indian team goes, there is a huge fan-base and after the win for us in Perth, I am hoping there will be a lot of Australians as well.
Lucky and honoured: Paine
"Hopefully, we outnumber the Indians, but on a personal note, I am really lucky and honoured to captain Australia on the biggest day of the cricketing calendar and cannot wait to get out there."
Virat Kohli has played in two MCG Boxing Day Tests previously, though this will also be his first as the Indian captain. To him, the rendition of the two national anthems, in front of a packed house, will be the ultimate favourite.
"Obviously, Day One is the most anticipated day and we are expecting a lot of people to come in, maybe 80,000-plus. I have experienced that twice before, it's definitely a magical day to step on the field," Kohli said. "You can sense the energy in the stadium. For me, my most favourite personal moment of the Boxing Day is when the anthems are sung and you are standing in the field and there are so many people around you." Like Kohli, the Indian head coach has also been part of two Boxing Day Tests. "It's fabulous," Ravi Shastri thundered, with typical chutzpah.
"The atmosphere on Boxing Day beats everything. It is like the first day of a Test at Eden Gardens with one lac people. I have played in two Tests here; I know how it feels, it's fantastic." The noise, the energy, the buzz, the heat, the electricity — MCG on Boxing Day is as close to cricketing nirvana as you can get.
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