The test series between India and Australia is deliciously poised at the moment. After the humiliating defeat at Adelaide, India pulled things back dramatically in the second test at Melbourne and registered a memorable victory on the back of heroics by stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane.
With the series tied 1-1, the action now moves to the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) tomorrow. Here are five points of discussion ahead of the third test.
There has been no dearth of injuries in the Indian contingent. Rohit Sharma missed the limited-overs leg of the tour and the first two tests after suffering an injury during the IPL. Veteran pacer Ishant Sharma too found himself ruled out of the test series. Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav picked up niggles in the first and second test respectively and were on their way out. Finally, it was batsman KL Rahul’s turn to add his name to the injury list after he sprained his wrist during training. Whew!
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Where does Rohit bat?
Rohit Sharma (pictured above) is available for the last two tests, and the fact that he was named Rahane’s deputy pretty much confirms that he will feature in India’s XI. It is to be seen whether the team management will make him open the innings or play him in the middle order. Opener Mayank Agarwal and middle-order bat Hanuma Vihari haven’t had a great series so far and one of them is likely to make way for Rohit in the lineup. Where the Hitman bats will depend on who he replaces.
Australia’s batting floundered at the MCG, compelling the management to call for reinforcements. As a result, star opener David Warner was added to the squad. Warner had suffered a groin injury during the ODI series in December, causing him to miss the first two tests. However, it looks increasingly likely that he will take the field in Sydney. Warner has a good record against India at home, averaging nearly 50. With their best batsman Steve Smith going through a rare rough patch, Warner’s presence might just provide the assurance that Australia needs.
Natarajan, Saini or Thakur?
Umesh Yadav being ruled out of the series means India must choose between three newbies to fill the third pacer’s spot – Thangarasu Natarajan, Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur. Natarajan and Thakur were added to the squad recently while Saini has been there since the beginning. The left-armed Natarajan would certainly add more variety to India’s pace attack, but Thakur might just get the nod for his greater experience at the domestic level.
The last few months have been a fairy-tale ride for Natarajan. The son of a daily wage labourer, the 29-year-old was fast-tracked to the Indian limited squads after his impressive showing in this year’s IPL. He now finds himself knocking on the doors of India’s test side. If he plays at the SCG tomorrow, it will be a story for the ages.
— Natarajan (@Natarajan_91) January 5, 2021
A series full of debutants
Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj donned the whites for India for the first time at Melbourne. Either Natarajan or Saini could make their test debut in Sydney. It’s hard to remember the last time India fielded so many debutants on such an important tour.
For Australia, all-rounder Cameron Green was handed the baggy green at Adelaide. They have three more potential debutants in the squad – opener Will Pucovski, all-rounder Michael Neser and spinner Mitchell Swepson, who could feature in the remaining two test matches.