The Indian cricket team’s woeful performance in Adelaide has created shockwaves among fans in the cricketing world. Virat Kohli’s side were bundled out for 36, their lowest-ever total in their 88-year Test history as India became only the second side after the West Indies to lose a Day-Night Test match after taking the lead. Australia won the game by eight wickets and took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series. Tim Paine’s team now head into the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26 high on confidence while for Team India, there is plenty of challenges. Virat Kohli, their skipper and ace batsman, is gone now as he is on paternity leave. Mohammed Shami, who took a blow from Pat Cummins on his right arm while trying to duck a bouncer, has been ruled out of the remainder of the series.
Heading into Melbourne, the Indian cricket team will be led by Ajinkya Rahane, who has a proud record of not losing a Test as captain. Rahane led India in the 2017 Test against Australia in Dharamshala and under his captaincy, India won the deciding Test. Rahane was also at the helm when India defeated Afghanistan by a huge margin in Bangalore two years ago. Now, Ajinkya Rahane has a massive task in hand as he tries to revive India’s confidence.
The Adelaide debacle has resulted in two forced changes with Ajinkya Rahane as captain and a replacement for Mohammed Shami. With no Ishant Sharma and with no Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India has four back-up bowlers in T Natarajan, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj. The likely replacement of Mohammed Shami could be either of Navdeep Saini or Mohammed Siraj. Siraj is looking good to make his Test debut as he played in the warm-up games and could match Shami as far as pace and swing is concerned.
On the batting front, Prithvi Shaw suffered twin failures and he could be replaced by Shubman Gill at the top of the order. However, KL Rahul, who was in top form for India in the ODIs and T20Is, has been in great form in 2020 and will be aiming to make a mark in Melbourne. It makes sense for India to replace Prithvi Shaw with KL Rahul and let Shubman Gill bat at No.4
The wicketkeeping question?
Wriddhiman Saha was picked for the Adelaide Test but he too struggled. Rishabh Pant has been accused of not being a good keeper and his reckless batting has sometimes cost the team. However, his counterattacking initiative would have worked well in Adelaide and thus, he makes a comeback for Melbourne in place of Wriddhiman Saha.
Thus, the Indian line-up, if one has to combine attack, could be KL Rahul opening with Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara at No.3 followed by Shubman Gill. Hanuma Vihari bats at number 6 while Rishabh Pant comes in at No.7. Mohammed Siraj replaces Mohammed Shami while the focus now shifts to Jasprit Bumrah who is the marquee player for India in this series along with Cheteshwar Pujara.
India’s predicted playing 11 for Melbourne
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill, Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj