India eye maiden Test series victory on Australian soil
India and history are just over five days away. Virat Kohli and his men have taken a 2-1 lead over Tim Paine’s Australia. They will become the first Indian side to a win a Test series on Australian soil if they manage to not lose the fourth and final Test in Sydney starting December 3.
From the Indian dressing room:
India have made two changes, naming a 13-man squad for the Syndey Test. Rohit Sharma has flown back to India to attend his newborn daughter and KL Rahul has replaced him. India have also excluded Ishant Sharma from the team that won in Melbourne for reasons unknown.
Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin are also a part of the XIII named for the fourth Test. India haven’t named Hardik Pandya in the squad after the all-rounder was brought in to join the team after their Perth defeat.
KL Rahul is expected to partner his Karnataka teammate Mayank Agarwal at the top. This means that Hanuma Vihari will take the number six position.
Ashwin’s inclusion came with a footer – his selection depends on his fitness which will be decided on the morning of the Test.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli have looked in ominous touch. While Kohli still has the ODIs leg left, this will be Test specialist Pujara’s last appearance in the India kit for a while.
India have no Tests scheduled at least until the end of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup which starts on May 30 and Pujara will be eager to sign off in a bright fashion.
As far as India’s bowling is concerned — Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja look certain to feature. There will be a toss-up between Umesh, Kuldeep and Ashwin.
No other bowlers on either side have picked more wickets than Jasprit Bumrah who tops the list with a staggering 20 to his name. All eyes will be on him when India take the field in Sydney.
From the Australian dressing room:
The Australia team has not announced their team yet. Their entire squad turned out to train under the eyes of selector Greg Chappell as per cricket.com.au.
Reports say that Mitch Marsh and Aaron Finch could face the axe and Peter Handscomb could mark his return if the pitch aids spin, especially with three spinners in India’s XIII.
Marnus Labuschagne has earned a recall to the Test side and is putting pressure on the all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. Labuschagne hasn’t had a great run with the bat but the Sydney track being spin-friendly might make his case stronger. The 24-year-old picked seven wickets with his leg-spin during Australia’s tour of the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan but wasn’t included for the first three Tests against India.
There will be a lot of pressure on Marcus Harris too. The left-hander has not made an impact apart from the 70 that he got in Perth. With Warner’s ban set to end on March 28, Harris will have limited time to cement his place and the Sydney Test will serve as an opportunity for him.
Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh will have to step up. Australia’s batting heavily relies on how they perform.
Positives for this team are that they have a very smart captain in Tim Paine — the leg gully in the second innings is a testimony of how he thinks. Pat Cummins’ form with both bat and ball is commendable.
His 63 might well earn him a promotion up the order but if he’s able to play the semi-new (second) ball will prove as a hurdle. This though isn’t a concern that tops Australia’s list. The form of Mitchell Starc is.
The way Cummins bowled should inspire Starc and Hazlewood to up their game in a bid to help Australia draw level. Labuschagne’s inclusion will also mean that Nathan Lyon will get a breather with the ball.
The fourth and final Test has a lot on the line. Action begins at 5 AM IST on Thursday.