Eighty-five years ago, an Australian team toured South Africa with Vic Richardson as captain while Sir Donald Bradman stayed at home.

Officially, this was to continue his long recovery from illness on the 1934 tour of England, but also to be South Australia’s captain in the Sheffield Shield. Since then, there is rarely any kind of parallel to be found with the news that Virat Kohli will miss all but one of this summer’s test matches between Australia and India due to the impending birth of her first child.

Then, as now, the player in question is not only the preeminent hitter in the game, but also the biggest box office draw of his day or many others. Bradman was the unrivaled star of a cricket universe much smaller than the one Kohli now dominates. Australia’s television broadcast was still over 20 years away when Bradman missed that tour, but it’s hard to think of another player who would have undergone the watermark treatment, with his smiling face tattooed in the upper right corner of the tour. television screen, as Kohli has done. Been to Fox Cricket this week.

That part of the branding, along with many in the News Corp newspapers, has a lot to do with the fact that the part of the limited tour, which Kohli does not miss, is exclusive to the pay TV service, which leaves free service. Air Seven Network with a single Test Match from which to extract your Kohli-hype pound. As far as broadcasters go, the early departure of the megastar captain from India amounts to losing Bradman, and Fox is taking every opportunity to clear up the discrepancy.

However, what must also be remembered from the 1935-36 tour is that in Bradman’s absence and after the retirement of Captain Bill Woodfull, the Australians were impressively consolidated under the tactically astute and socially outgoing Richardson, winning Series 4. – 0 while playing an enterprising brand of cricket. The South Africans, although they did not have to face the hitting giant of the time, were attacked from all sides.

One advantage India has over the Australians of 1935-36 is that they know much better the capabilities of their likely alternate captain, Ajinkya Rahane. Through many matches for India A and a handful of occasions with the senior team, Rahane has proven to be a strong and aggressive leader, even if in demeanor and outward demeanor he and Kohli couldn’t be more different as personalities. In this, he provides some parallels with Kohli’s greatest high-level hitter, Cheteshwar Pujara, who in 2018-19 simply bored the hosts to defeat.

Where Kohli brings instant theater, combative moments and the drama of an elite athlete operating on the edge, Rahane as captain and Pujara as hitter offer an almost supernatural calm at times, much less an Alpha “competition” for Australians to get into. . Despite Kohli’s preeminence as a hitter, recent evidence suggests that Australia really enjoys playing him, not only because of the scope of the challenge, but also because of the fact that they come out on top most of the time.

In 2017 in India, Kohli had 46 runs in three tests before Rahane took over the decider in Dharamsala; two years later, Kohli produced arguably the summer innings in a fiery Perth field, but was otherwise more or less tame with a 40.28 average for the series. Certainly the energy created by his arrival at the fold has concentrated the Australians more than it has detracted from their bowling and fielding. Pujara, meanwhile, has stretched Australia’s patience much more often.

“Every hitter is a little bit different, but they’re probably polar opposites,” Australia fast pitcher Josh Hazlewood said. “For me it’s about not really seeing the hitter on the other side, it’s just about looking at the grounds and seeing where I want to throw the ball and take the hitter out of the equation, be it Virat or Pujara.

“This is how I do it, I know they are all different and they like to get into the fight with Virat and they think that brings out the best in them as a bowler, but I think it comes down to treating all hitters the same, already. whether they have a lot of energy or not, that’s how I do things. “

Most intriguing on the hitting front will be the fact that Pujara will be able to focus exclusively on his readiness to hit for long stretches, while Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc must adjust their focus after the white ball game series that also Kohli characteristic. All rapids plus Nathan Lyon are experienced enough to know that changing from cue to red requires a greater application of patience, but will still find that it is easier said than done without the required match practice.

“Patience is probably the most important thing to me, going from the white ball to the red ball,” Hazlewood said. “You have 10 overs in an ad for a white ball game, you’re probably not always looking for land, but you know you only have 10 overs and you have to try to make an impact, so when we go back to that red ball, patience will be the key for me and keep those areas correct all day. That’s probably the only thing I’m aiming at in that format change.

“When we have [Pujara] in Perth he didn’t hurt us on a slightly faster and more bouncy track so his game is obviously set up, he has played most of his cricket in India on slower and lower terrain, and he’s working hard on those tracks. to find a crack in the armor. The higher pace and rebound we can get on some of the fields will help, but I think it’s a game of patience with him and it’s about surviving him and knowing that he will face a lot of balls and not stray from our plan of the game. that we have talked about. Sticking with it the best we can. “

As for Rahane, the likes of Cummins, Lyon, Steven Smith and David Warner will recall how he brilliantly organized India in that decisive 2017 Test, particularly how the Australians were pressured in the third inning when they started just 32 races behind. Mentally tired at the end of a long and often spiteful series, they hit 137, leaving Rahane to help run towards a modest fourth-inning goal and then give Kohli a chance to lift the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

However, Rahane is not as transcendent a hitting talent as Kohli, and the Australians will have the opportunity to corner him in successive games on more bouncy surfaces than commonly found in India. This goes both ways, of course: instead of a single match with Kohli in the locker room, Rahane will get three matches in which to assert himself as the leader.

“India is very, very lucky to have a backup captain like Rahane,” Ian Chappell told ESPNcricinfo in 2017. “I thought he did a fantastic job and it’s not easy to do the job as a backup, because you know the full-time captain has a certain style. What do I do? Do I try to copy that style? Do I try to be captain in the same way as him, or am I just myself ?, and Rahane did the right thing. He captained in his own way and I thought he did a great work, aggressive in his quiet way.

“You don’t have to be an enthusiastic captain to have the whole team behind you, you just need to do a good job and for the guys to have faith in what you’re doing. If you’re doing the right thing and the aggressive field placement moves that was doing Rahane, that creates a belief in the team. The team is looking at their captain and they’re thinking ‘well the captain thinks we have a real shot here in this game, he thinks we have a chance to get a wicket’, so it brings the team behind the captain. “

So yes, Kohli is a loss for the series, but his absence won’t necessarily make Australia’s task any easier. Well acquainted with the Kohli fire, Tim Paine’s team must find better ways to deal with the ice at Pujara and Rahane.