Aussies ask how Kohli might perform without crowds
The prospect of playing in front of empty stadiums has Australia's bowlers wondering how the Indian captain might react
14 April 2020, 02:26 PM AEST
Australia's Test bowlers have been using some of their time in enforced isolation to muse over how India captain Virat Kohli might adapt to the previously unthinkable scenario of playing Test cricket in front of empty grandstands.
While the immediate future of sport around the globe remains unknown due the restrictions in place to combat the spread of COVID19, Australia spinner Nathan Lyon remains hopeful the planned four-Test home series against India later this year goes ahead, with or without spectators in attendance.
But the very real prospect of sport being played in empty stadia once travel and social isolation restrictions are slowly eased has prompted Lyon and some of his teammates to speculate how the usual on-field dynamics might change without crowd noise and its accompanying gladiatorial atmosphere.
More specifically, the Australia bowlers – who remain in regular contact through text messages and telephone calls – wonder if the sterile atmosphere of an empty venue might impact on Kohli who is renowned for feeding from energy generated by fans, whether for or against him.
Lyon revealed today the Kohli question was raised in a recent chat with Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc, as they discussed the prospect of tackling the world's most talked about contemporary player in an environment he has rarely encountered.
"He’s probably good enough to adapt to any scenario," Lyon said of Kohli today.
"But I was talking to Mitch Starc the other day and we actually said that if we are playing with no crowd, it’ll be quite amazing to see Virat trying to rev up the (empty) seats.
"It’s going to be a little bit different, but Virat is a superstar.
"He’ll be able to adapt to any climate that we’re able to play in."
Like all professional sports people the world over, Lyon's immediate playing future is unknown.
He was due to undertake a stint with English county team Hampshire, but it was announced last week his contract had been cancelled as cricket season in the UK remains on hold due to the deadly pandemic.
Lyon's next international commitment was to have been Australia's two-Test tour of Bangladesh in June, but that was also cancelled last week and doubt remains over planned limited-overs series against England (in the UK) and Zimbabwe (in Australia) as well as the men's T20 World Cup.
That tournament was scheduled to take place in Australia during October and November this year, before Kohli's India outfit arrived here for four Test matches.
Lyon, who has spent the past weeks in the guise of junior primary and kindergarten teacher for his daughters Harper and Milla, continues to hold hope Australia's summer of cricket will proceed despite the myriad hurdles to be overcome in the ensuing six months.
"I'm excited about the prospect of India coming out to Australia, it's up there with the biggest series alongside the Ashes," he said.
"They’re an absolute powerhouse of the cricket world, and to have those guys out here is going to be fantastic.
"Playing in front of crowds or no crowds is out of our control, we've got to follow the advice of all the amazing medical people around the world.
"I haven't thought about no crowds or massive crowds, it's just about the opportunity of playing against India again.
"They had the wood over us last time they came over here (2018-19) but we're a much stronger Australian cricket side at the moment, and I'm just unbelievably excited about playing them here at home."
The indefinite postponement of international and domestic cricket has also cast doubts upon the future of the ICC's inaugural World Test Championship competition which was supposed to reach its climax in mid-2021 based on the results of Test series played over the preceding two years.
As the championship table currently stands, India (360 points) currently sit on top ahead of Australia (296) and New Zealand (180) but the capacity for cricket administrators to re-schedule postponed series into an already crowded Future Tours Program casts a shadow over the fledgling concept.
Lyon noted a decision on whether officials attempt to squeeze in all proposed series prior to the planned final in mid-2021, or re-calibrate the points system to allow for the cancelled or postponed campaigns remained a question for the ICC and its member boards.
"I think it's important that the two best teams over that period compete in the Test championship final, and obviously I want Australia to be there," he said.
"But that's a decision for the big bosses of the ICC and everyone else involved, we'll just have to wait and see."
In the meantime, Lyon is adapting to circumstances that prevent him from attending cricket training or group workout sessions.
Instead, he is focusing on fitness activities with his long-time personal trainer Tom Carter and taking advantage of the benefits that come from being a spinner who doesn't require the body building or explosive sprint work required of his fast bowling colleagues, to keep on top of his craft.
He mischievously suggests he's using his time in isolation to perfect another 'mystery ball' – "to go the other way" – but concedes it's the first time in his memory that playing or preparing for competitive cricket hasn't been the central focus of his routine.
"I can't recall when cricket took the back seat of my life," Lyon said.
"I've been pretty fortunate in playing a lot of Test match cricket for Australia through the last nine or ten years … and it's not very often we get to spend this much time at home with my partner and my two kids, which has been exceptional.
"You have to look at the positives at the moment, and that's one big positive with me at the moment.
"I'm probably a little bit more lucky, talking to Mitch Starc and Pat (Cummins) and Josh (Hazlewood).
"I think Pat's down there (on his NSW southern highlands property) trying to lift his calves up as weights, but I'm just doing my normal stuff with Tom Carter here in Sydney and a lot more relaxed about my training rather than trying to lift big, heavy weights like the quicks.
"I'm more on my feet doing a bit of running and having a bit of fun like that.
"We're very fortunate we had the season we just had, and we're technically on leave at the moment.
"But I think a lot of industries, if not every industry, will be affected by COVID.
"It's out of our control."