About the only thing not asked of Virat Kohli before the first Test was whether he would twerk.
Long, earnest essays were published on cricket sites about the potential vulnerabilities of Kohli’s generally sumptuous play. Local tabloids resorted to the kind of childish taunts — “Scaredy Bats!” — they spit at the best and most threatening “foreigners”. A viral video of Kohli belting the ball in the nets created the impression he would be less intimidating if he came to the crease with an AK-47 than with a bat.
There were rumours Kohli was just one of 11 Indian players who would take the field at Adelaide Oval, although none that could be confirmed by reference to the local media coverage.
Amid this Kohlimania, and given his rare talent, the reaction to the Indian captain’s appearance — and, as pertinently, his disappearance — would provide the first great Test of this new and supposedly kinder Australia 2.0.
So when Patrick Cummins caught the edge of Kohli’s flashing bat and Usman Khawaja dived full-length to his left to take the kind of athletic catch for which he was not — at least, not before a recent diet — particularly renowned, the reaction seemed instructive.
Cummins ran straight to Khawaja at gully rather than down the pitch toward Kohli. This was a moment of joy shared with a teammate who had endured an awful lead-up to this Test with no hint of vengeance against the departing batsman as he trudged off.
Was this, as we had been promised, tough, hard cricket played on the right side of the line tinged with a splash of Elite Honesty and a twist of truth, justice and the Australian way?
Or, more likely, merely the customary celebration of a team lumped with a bad boy reputation that does not truly reflect the generally reasonable behaviour and friendly nature of the vast majority of its members?
The summer will tell. But on the first day in Adelaide an Australian team just standing on a cricket field asking to be loved did everything possible to regain the trust and respect of even the greatest sceptic.
Perhaps even better, in reducing India to sub-par 9-250 on a scorching day and an only marginally helpful pitch, the Australians should have proven to themselves — and those ex-players bemoaning the supposed shackles imposed since Sandpapergate — that reasonable behavioural expectations don’t leave a team with one hand tied behind its back.
Instead, it turns out that bowling full and straight (mingled with the odd well-targeted short one) and holding your catches can still be effective without the kind of ball-scratching, sledging, attack-dog tactics that have been commonly mistaken for “tough, hard cricket”.
It also helped that the Indian batsmen forgot to check the touring schedule and batted as if they were in the power-play overs of a one-day international.
But Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Cummins and Nathan Lyon emerged from the first skirmishes with their already healthy reputations in every sense enhanced.
Given the historic change of TV rights from long-term broadcaster Nine to Seven and Fox Sports, the first day of this Test was always going to be as much about how the game was consumed as how it was played.
The traditional measure of TV coverage quality has been the amount of time it takes a viewer to hit mute and synchronise the pictures with the ever reliable ABC Radio commentary.
In recent years, barely a New York minute would elapse before ABC doyen Jim Maxwell and his fellow commentators provided welcome relief from the blokey banter of Nine’s second-generation cast.
However, the rather presumptuously self-titled “new home of cricket” Seven responded to losing the toss (Seven missed the vital moment due to a technical glitch) almost as auspiciously as the Australians.
Seven’s winning edge? Not some new-aged technical wizardry or even an impressive array of ex-players, but the use of actual cricket commentators Tim Lane and Alison Mitchell, who revived memories of the days when TV callers spoke to their viewers instead of trading riotous in-jokes.
Access to players as they warm up, access to the bowling coach at drinks, access to a fielder at lunch, access to the bloke driving the drinks trolley. Access that is intended to create the illusion the viewer is right inside the game.
But if this provides the odd intimate moment or piquant observation, access without insight merely dulls the game’s aura and diminishes its mystique. So you can only hope we don’t get too much of this occasionally good thing.
Otherwise it seems Seven will provide a glossy and expansive coverage for traditional cricket fans and Fox Sports will cater as adequately for those who preferred the more banter-driven style of Nine’s dying days.
Of course by the end of this summer the Australians could just as easily be giving Kohli a foul-mouthed send-off while Seven’s commentators debate their favourite pizza toppings.
As tempting as it was to draw conclusions from the first day of the cricketing summer, Test cricket’s great lesson was the one taught by India’s innings-saving centurion Cheteshwar Pujara.
Put your head down and play the long game.