After being skittled out for a paltry 36 in the second innings of the first Test, India scripted a remarkable comeback in the second Test of the series. With some rippling display from the bowlers, India managed to get the better of the hosts and impose a defeat by a similar margin of 8 wickets as skipper Ajinkya Rahane led from the front.
With Virat Kohli being sidelined due to an injury, Ajinkya Rahane will continue to be the skipper of the Test team at Sydney Cricket Ground with the stakes a lot higher than the other two Test matches, given the probability of heavy showers in the first two days.
India, however, will be reprieved by the anticipating return of Rohit Sharma who will most likely be filling in the boots of an out-of-sorts Mayank Agarwal. Sharma picked up a nasty injury in the IPL that ruled him out for a significant amount of time. However, the Indian Hitman worked hard in his rehab to ensure his presence in Australia for as much time as he can. Now with the series in the balance, his arrival in the team will be a massive impetus for Team India, considering the failure at the top of the innings.
India will have to opt for another change that will see the likeliest incorporation of Navdeep Saini to supersede the injured Umesh Yadav.
We will have a quick look at the predicted XI of the Indian cricket team for the third Test at Sydney Cricket Ground.
Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma
Gill showcased exemplary form against Australia in the warm-up matches where he was even successful in notching up a half-century. After being called up for the second Test to replace Prithvi Shaw, he produced crucial runs in both the innings for India. While hammering a fine 45 from 68 deliveries, he also went on to support India’s pursuit of 70 runs in the second innings with an excellent 35 from 36 deliveries. The fact that will support Gill’s presence, even more, was his extraordinary stroke play against the formidable Australian pace trifecta. He can be a real Bête noire for Australia for the forthcoming two Tests.
Rohit Sharma’s expertise and prowess against those short balls can be a major factor that will push Australia to the back foot initially, especially when the ball will be new. If Sharma is able to deal with the movement, it can be a lip-smacking contest between Sharma and the troika of Starc, Cummins, and Hazlewood. Also, with Sharma in the middle, it may also delay the introduction of Nathan Lyon, given the wondrous player of spin that he is.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja
Pujara really hasn’t been himself in the ongoing Test series. Despite posting a fighting knock in the first innings of the first Test, he has slumped down to ordinary figures from thereon. This will be a major reason for the Indian management t frown, considering the fact that Pujara’s presence in the middle has been India’s most promising batting stand. However, he will be getting this last opportunity to validate the fact that the last three failures were a rare fluke, and he is still the same man with that enduring mindset that India last saw from their wall, Rahul Dravid.
Ajinkya Rahane has been in fine form so far and showcased to the world that why he is still deemed as one of the most dangerous Test batsmen in the current batting roster. Despite, failing to uphold India’s efforts in their rare fiasco where they were bundled out for a meagre 36, he announced his revival with an extraordinary 112 in the first innings of the second Test, especially with the onus of the team’s captaincy on his shoulders. When Pujara was dismissed in the second innings, an infamous déjà vu of India’s chagrin was once again popping its ugly head in a lot of minds. However, Rahane’s calm stand in the middle laced with aggressive striking from Shubman Gill dispersed the demons away.
Hanuma Vihari will have the eyes set on him considering the fact that he has been pedestrian throughout the tournament. With KL Rahul grappling with his injury, Vihari will be making the cut for this test but with England up next, if he fails again,the board will have to look for viable options. Vihari comes out at number 5 that used to see the shuffle between Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, two of India’s most decorated batsman in the middle-order. If he is not upping the ante at Sydney, chances are high, that his career may suffer an unspeakable downfall.
Rishabh Pant played out an all-important partnership with Ajinkya Rahane in the last game, that may look diminutive in stature but his presence in the middle provided the Indian makeshift skipper with ample time to push Australia to the back-burner. Despite Saha being a better keeper, his batting has failed the selectors and this will continue to push Pant to be the successor to Dhoni who also boasts of an unbeaten 159 at Sydney exactly two years back.
Ravindra Jadeja was the man who flipped the tide in India’s favour, playing out a painstaking stand of 121 runs with Rahane for the sixth wicket. Despite being known for his pyrotechnics, the all-rounder kept his calm and stitched together a sublime 57 from 159 deliveries that only comprised 3 boundaries which are completely uncharacteristic of Jadeja. He also chipped in with three imperative wickets in the match that included the prized scalp of Matthew Wade.
Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Mohammad Siraj
Ashwin has been India’s most menacing bowler in the series so far. He has managed to pick up 10 wickets from the two matches in the fray that included a 4-wicket haul in the first innings of the first Test. His 15 in the first Test match and his 14 with the bat gave India some salient breathing room towards the tail, taking into consideration that the remaining players in the team are not really at home with the willow in their hands.
Jasprit Bumrah is undoubtedly India’s best pace option given his relentless pursuit of that block hole. With the speed gun regularly kissing the limits of 145 plus clicks, Bumrah loves to leave the batsmen dazed and confused. Another major factor that plays a significant role for Bumrah is his ability to mix the ilk of deliveries with yorkers and bouncers coming in tandem. Though he is still to register big figures, he has already proven himself to be a nightmare for the Australian batsmen.
Despite the canards of a surprise debut for Natarajan flying high, it is expected that Navdeep Saini will be the likeliest contender to replace an injured Umesh Yadav. Natarajan has made a name for himself since the IPL that saw him bowling the highest number of yorkers. However, with the urgency of not having to score runs at a breezy rate, batsmen won’t really be bothered by the toe-crushers, happy to let them drift with a mild touch of the bat. That is why Navdeep Saini will be a sounder pick for this Test, given the bouncy nature of the pitch and the pace that he brags about. With 143 plus kays being normal for this sturdy fast man, Australia will have to rethink their strategies, especially the likes of Will Pucovski, who will be new to the brutality.
Mohammad Siraj was not picked up for the first Test given the titanic presence of Mohammad Shami. But with the latter injured, Siraj had his opportunity to showcase his mettle against Australia. He came out with flying colours as he managed to register five wickets in the very first game. His first innings scalp vaunted the important wicket of Marnus Labuschange who seemed menacing with his industrious 48. Despite having a reticent start in the second innings, Siraj roared back to life with a double whammy against Australia that deracinated the base of Cameron Green and Travis Head. The pace that this young man is capable of generating makes him a scorching contender for a spot in the team.