Both Pant & Saha Play? How Will India’s Playing XI Look at Gabba?
The top 4 in the line-up are unlikely to change unless there’s any untoward incidents before the Gabba Test.
Will there be one debut or two? Will Prithvi Shaw and Kuldeep Yadav play at the Gabba in Brisbane or will R Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah make it in the nick of time? A very bruised Indian cricket team have quite a selection headache due to the raft of injuries ahead of the final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The Indian team management is expected to wait it out for as long as possible on a decision on the likes of Bumrah and Ashwin. Head coach Ravi Shastri and Ajinkya Rahane have quite the task on hand as they look to put out an XI formidable enough to breach the fortress that is the Gabba.
While the likes of Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rahane, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini are set to be the first names on the team sheet, how will India replace the injured players?
We take a look at India’s possible options for Brisbane.
Play Pant and Saha Together?
The top 4 in the line-up are unlikely to change unless there are any untoward incidents in the last couple of days before the Test.
In the Sydney Test, Rishabh Pant, the batsman, made a solid case for selection for Brisbane with a brilliant 97, that too on the back of a painful injury and an able attack in full flow.
Should India pick him in as a batsman, they will then need to pick Wriddhiman Saha as the wicket-keeper. The senior keeper is also no pushover with the bat and even though he is unlikely to score at a rate as fast as Pant’s, he’s got three Test centuries and four fifties to his name.
India’s only other batsmen available on the tour are Mayank Agarwal (results on scans awaited) and Prithvi Shaw, both of whom have not enjoyed the Australian summer at all.
If in case Mayank gets the nod eventually, India would not only have to pick between Pant and Saha but also move Rohit Sharma down the order.
Replacing Hanuma Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja won’t be an easy task but the Indian team has shown a fair amount of courage in dealing with difficult situations and one expects more of that come Friday. India had begun the Test series with KL Rahul as an option on the bench too, but an injury in training to him as well has left them severely depleted.
At the Gabba, India’s top two pacers, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini, are going to be bowlers who have made their debut in the longest format in this ongoing Test series.
India’s options in the pace battery aren’t very many either with the likes of T Natarajan, Shardul Thakur and Kartik Tyagi (played only one warm-up game), the only ones to pick from in place of Bumrah.
Natarajan as a left armer provides a very different challenge to the batsmen, however he has played only 20 games in first-class cricket. Thakur on the other hand has played 62 games and taken over 200 wickets.
More red-ball cricket experience and of course ability with the bat tilts the scales in favour of Shardul.
However, given that the Gabba has for long assisted the faster bowlers more than the spinners, India might even pick a fourth pacer and hand a debut to left armer Natarajan.
Will Ashwin Make It?
One of the heroes, not just in Sydney, but throughout the Australian summer, R Ashwin has been crucial as a bowler, leader and lower-order batsman.
Back spasms and body blows in Sydney meant Ashwin’s diet included a heavy dose of pain killers. Ashwin, who has taken 12 wickets in three Tests on the tour, is known to brave injury and play through pain. Reports also suggest that the team is hopeful of him recovering in time ahead of the final Test, which would be a big boost for India.
India’s other spinning options are Kuldeep Yadav, who has happy memories of playing Australia, and Washington Sundar.
Could Washington Sundar Get the Nod?
The Tamil Nadu man, much like Ashwin, went from being a batsman to a bowler and according to a report in Times of India, he could be in line for a debut after being asked to stay back for the Tests, especially as an option to fill the Jadeja position.
While Sundar offers more with the bat than Kuldeep Yadav, he has not played a first-class game since 2017. The line-up with Washington Sundar will ensure that India's batting runs till No. 8 while they will also have five bowlers. If they choose to bring in Agarwal, they will definitely have a quality batsman but they will feature a bowler less.
The likelihood is that India will go in with five bowlers, and the second spinner’s spot is a toss up between Washington Sundar and Kuldeep Yadav.
Predicted XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav/Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini.
Australia XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c & wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
India Test squad: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan
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