Debut for Gill? Jadeja to Play? India’s Likely Changes for MCG

Only two are forced changes with Kohli heading back to India on paternity leave and Mohammed Shami being injured.

4 min read
Ravindra Jadeja picked up a hamstring injury in the first T20I against Australia.

The Adelaide debacle is no doubt one of the darkest days in India’s Test history and for stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane the task on hand is quite daunting – how to plug the holes in Melbourne first, and then Sydney and Brisbane.

The opener’s slot, the wicket-keeper, Ravindra Jadeja and of course who replaces Mohammed Shami and Virat Kohli – definitely not the kind of selection headaches Rahane and Ravi Shastri had in mind ahead of Christmas.

Here’s a look at the possible changes that India could make for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Only two are forced changes with Virat Kohli heading back to India on paternity leave and Mohammed Shami being injured. Reports indicate that three more changes are expected for the second Test.

Gill Likely to Debut?

The Mumbaikar has had a torrid time in Australia. With the bat Shaw has failed to get going in any of the innings he has played, and his weakness has been exposed as well. In six knocks so far on the tour, he has got 66 runs with four single digit scores.

Shaw, the first dismissal in both innings in Adelaide, has been going through a rough patch right from the middle of the IPL. Furthermore, poor fielding does not help him in the race for selection either.

Shubman Gill on the other hand has looked more assured in the knocks he has played on the tour so far and has scored a couple of double centuries in unofficial Tests for India A, one being earlier in the year in New Zealand. He even scored a century in the second unofficial Test in New Zealand. The Punjab batsman is likely to get the nod for Boxing Day.

Gill was also the pick ahead of Shaw for former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border ahead of the Adelaide Test.

KL Rahul Returns?

The limited-overs vice-captain KL Rahul is all to slot in to the XI in Melbourne, according to a report in Times of India. Rahul’s last Test was against West Indies in 2019 after the ODI World Cup.

"Opener Prithvi Shaw could be replaced by KL Rahul, talented youngster Shubhman Gill will make his Test debut, replacing skipper Virat Kohli at No 4," a BCCI source told the Times of India.

Rahul, who came to Australia on the back of a brilliant IPL season where he finished as the leading run-scorer, has not been in the best of form in the longer format. Since the South Africa tour of 2018, Rahul has only one fifty plus score, 149 in the final Test against England at The Oval.

Who Replaces Shami?

Possibly the biggest body blow for India on this tour is that ace fast bowler Mohammed Shami has been ruled out for the rest of the series with a fractured arm.

As per the squad, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj are the pacers available, while the likes of T Natarajan and Shardul Thakur and Kartik Tyagi are with the team as net bowlers.

While the fast Saini had an expensive start to the tour in the white ball games, Siraj being a left armer provides another line of attack. Neither however have played Tests, though Siraj has been the more successful bowler in first class cricket where he has 152 wickets from 38 games while Saini has picked 128 in 46 matches.

Wriddhiman Saha or Rishabh Pant?

While the senior pro is considered to be the better keeper, his poor batting performances might tip the scales in favour of Rishabh Pant. The attacking prowess Pant brings to the table along with the fact that he scored a century in the warm-up game and has done well with the bat in Australia previously.

India have preferred Pant over Saha overseas, are they going to go back to that? “Look, our committee was clear that Rishabh Pant will be our first choice keeper in places like England and Australia. Only when we are looking at matches in India where you don’t need batting after number six most times, you can have a specialist keeper,” former Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad told PTI on Sunday.

“I believe Rishabh has worked on his fitness issues during the past month and looked in good touch during the pink ball practice game. So I would agree with the team management if they give Rishabh a go for the next three Tests,” Prasad said.

Ravindra Jadeja at 6?

One of the best fielders in the Indian set up, Jadeja would help lift the standards in the field and considering Melbourne is not going to be as pacy a pitch, India might opt for two spinners.

Will he replace Hanuma Vihari, who scored 16 and 8 in Adelaide? The Reports suggest that Jadeja, who is fit again after suffering a hamstring injury during the first T20I in Canberra, will replace Vihari.

"If Jadeja gets fit to bowl long spells, then there is no debate at all. Jadeja replaces Vihari on the basis of his all-round skills. Also it gives us an option to play five bowlers at the MCG," a senior BCCI source was quoted as saying by PTI.

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