As Adelaide prepares for India’s first-ever away day-night Test, both Australia and the visitors are faced with questions about who would play. India’s problems seem to have more to do with who will be the best fit, while Australia are simply focussed on who will be fit to start with. India’s focus is largely on the opening slots, trying to figure who will be batting at N0. 1 and 2, with the rest of the squad mostly fitting itself in. Australia, on the other hand, are having to find replacements and stand-byes galore as D-Day approaches.
Take a look at Australia. Will Pucovski, the next great hope of Australian batting, was laid low by India’s net bowler Kartik Tyagi, while Cameron Green – another new hopeful – was at the receiving end of a shot from, of all the batsmen, Jasprit Bumrah.
So as things stand, Pucovski is out, and Green is doubtful, so Marcus Harris and Moises Henriques were called up as replacement and stand-by respectively.
Then Australia lost Sean Abbott, thanks to a minor calf strain which will keep him out of the first Test.
David Warner went out of action after a typically extravagant fielding attempt during the limited-overs series.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Steve Smith was said to be limping a bit, though he was later reported to be back at the nets.
Not quite the perfect plan for skipper Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer ahead of the opening Test of the series.
On the plus side, Mitchell Starc is back and that in itself possibly puts the chips up for the hosts, since irrespective of how many runs are scored, it takes 20 wickets to win a Test.
India don’t seem to be too worried on that front. Their bowling was quite something in the first inning against Australia A, with Mohammed Shami and Bumrah being automatic choices. Also, while several experts are backing Umesh Yadav as the third seamer on an Adelaide track which may help seam-up, don’t be too surprised if Virat Kohli goes with Navdeep Saini.
Ravichandran Ashwin should be India’s only specialist spinner, thanks to his experience.
As for the wicketkeeper, no surprises there in that Rishabh Pant will be picked ahead of Wriddhiman Saha, but that may change after the first Test.
As for the middle-order, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, the last thanks to his practice match century, should be in. KL Rahul one assumes will have to sit this one out.
Which leaves us with the crucial question. Who opens?
As of now, Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill seems to be it.
Gill possibly has the most compact straight-bat technique among the newcomers and is a country mile ahead of Prithvi Shaw as a batsman, while Agarwal can only be fitted into this combo as an opener. Also, he did put up a case in the tour match.
That then, is how things should pan out for India in the only Test Kohli will play in the series.
How this selection manages to handle the pink cricket ball in alien conditions is another question to ponder and possibly will be the biggest question for the team, rather than the actual team allocation.
That question will be up for answer when the hostilities begin Thursday.
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