New Delhi: Battered in the first Test by eight wickets after being shot out for 36 in the second innings, the Indian team may ring in a few changes for the second Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) that begins on December 26.
While Virat Kohli, who is returning to India to attend the birth of his first child, and Mohammed Shami, who is learned to have suffered a fracture on his bowling hand, will have to be replaced due to circumstances, Prithvi Shaw could lose out on form as he has failed to score in all six innings — four in warm-ups and two in first Test during the ongoing tour.
India may bring in KL Rahul and Shubman Gill as the replacements for batsmen Kohli and Shaw, if the latter is axed.
Rishabh Pant, either as wicketkeeper-batsman or purely as batsman, and spinner Ravindra Jadeja will also most likely make the cut.
For Shami, the team management have right-arm pace bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini as replacements. The team management may add one of T Natarajan, Shardul Thakur and Karthik Tyagi as replacement in the squad. Natarajan provides a left-arm option to the side.
India’s left-arm bowlers had, in the previous decade, produced some exciting moments on Australian tours, be it Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, or Ashish Nehra. Over the last two tours, in 2014-15 and 2018-19, and the ongoing one, India have not had a single left-arm seamer touring Australia even though their frontline pace attack comprising right-armers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma bowled them to series victory in 2018-19.
With Ishant Sharma already not there — he is recuperating at the National Cricket Academy — India are hard-pressed for quality pace bowlers.
Ishant’s absence, along with Rohit’s, from the touring party had upset the India skipper Kohli who had said that the two should have been doing rehabilitation with the Indian team in Australia just like Wriddhiman Saha did.
Kohli complained of miscommunication over the fitness updates of the two.
“It definitely would have been very helpful in them getting fit if they were here and doing the rehab just like Saha is with the team to be fit for the Test series,” the Indian captain had said prior to the ODI series.
Bumrah will lead the pace attack along with Umesh Yadav, who is on his fourth tour of Australia. It will be interesting to see who India play as third seamer, provided they play a third seamer at all.
Left-arm spinner Jadeja, who missed the first Test after being hit on the head in the first T20I on December 4, will most likely pair up with R Ashwin in a two-pronged spin attack, if the left-armer regains match fitness. Jadeja also provides a batting option lower down.
Jadeja could bat at No.6 or 7, depending on India’s decision to play three or two seamers.
Hanuma Vihari will also be under spotlight as he failed in both the innings, although he had a decent outing in the warm-ups — a century and a 28 besides a couple of 15s. He made 16 and eight in the two innings of the Test. If the Indian team management sacks him, it will most likely play Pant at No.6.
Mayank Agarwal would open with either Gill or Rahul with Pujara in at No. 3. Rahane could move to No. 4, with either Gill or Rahul coming in at No. 5.