Onus on India to turn the tide after the Adelaide debacle

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24 Dec 2020 | 09:12 PM
authorShubh Aggarwal

Onus on India to turn the tide after the Adelaide debacle

India have their back against the wall but would believe they can resurrect themselves

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What happened on the third afternoon in Adelaide felt like a knockout blow before the Boxing Day Test. The embarrassing collapse that saw the visitors bowled out for 36 has opened a can of worms. Things have not helped with Virat Kohli leaving and Mohammed Shami’s injury ruling him out of the Test series. However, all is not lost for India. There are still three Tests to go and experts believe they can make a comeback. Many have also stated that their won’t be a comeback. Which way the tide goes will be clearer at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the second Test will set the tone for the rest of the series. 

Better batting conditions

While India was shot out for their lowest Test total, Australian captain, Tim Paine was also not content with his batsmen. “Our batting was below what we expect”, is what he said in the presentation ceremony. 

MCG will invariably see better batting conditions. Amongst the venues with at least four Tests since 2016, MCG has the fifth best batting average overall for the Top 7 - 40.3 runs per wicket - which is also the second best in Australia. The ball generally does not do much here, although, the run-scoring has still been slow in the recent past because of an unresponsive pitch. 

There is no news on the pitch laid out for this fixture as yet but batsmen are expected to be comfortable. India will need to be wary of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. Smith, especially, averages 113.5 here in seven Tests. 

Indian batting has been fickle in conditions outside the subcontinent. In Tests since 2018, India’s Top 6 collectively average 60.7 in the Indian subcontinent. Outside, there is an alarming dip to 29.4.

MCG offers a good opportunity to improve that but India will dearly need Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to step up in Virat Kohli’s absence. Both have recorded hundreds at this venue in the past, Pujara in 2018 and Rahane in 2014. Mayank Agarwal is currently away from criticism. But in this line-up, time can run out for anyone in the blink of an eye and the right-hander would want to break the string of low scores - 36 runs in last four innings - to revive himself at a venue where he announced himself two years ago. 

The rest of the batsmen in both units will be playing for their spot. 

Contrasting bowling attacks

The bowling worries lie only in the Indian camp right now. The side which missed Ishant Sharma in the previous game will now be without Shami. This leaves India with only one out of their three first choice pacers. 

Mohammed Siraj will make their Test debut to accompany Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav. On the bright side, Umesh with Siraj might be more suited to hit-the-deck bowling required on the MCG track. That is what has made Pat Cummins successful on this wicket. 

Amongst the currently active Test cricketers, Cummins has the best average at MCG for a bowler who has picked at least 10 wickets. He has 18 wickets in three games at 16.2 runs per wicket. He has a five-for each in the last two Tests at MCG. He will be the biggest challenge for Indian batsmen in this Test. Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc have had to toil here historically with their worst bowling average at a Test venue in Australia.

Selection dilemma

Selection has always been a hot topic in India, be it cricket or anything else. Reports over the last few days have hinted at many possible combinations for India. In the end, there have been four - two forced and two citing the poor form of others and team balance. 

Rishabh Pant will take the gloves from Wriddhiman Saha. There were three options for the spot vacated by Kohli - Shubman Gill, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja. Prithvi Shaw also has been dropped which has allowed two of them to get a chance. 

Gill was always the frontrunner, having done fairly well in the second warm-up game. Also, the man in direct competition with him - Rahul - has not played much first-class cricket of late and did not feature in any of the two warm-up games. Jadeja’s rejuvenated batting alongside his bowling expertise lends team more balance. His fitness was the only question, a concern he must have shredded by passing the fitness test.  

India would have ideally wanted a pace bowling allrounder to do the support act but there has been a prolonged dearth in that department. 

Australia, on the flip side, have Cameron Green. They have also confirmed an unchanged XI if there are no injuries. David Warner will continue to nurse his groin. 

India would have ideally wanted a pace bowling allrounder to do the support act but there has been a prolonged dearth in that department. 

Australia, on the flip side, have Cameron Green. They have also confirmed an unchanged XI if there are no injuries. David Warner will continue to nurse his groin. 

Probable XIs

Australia: Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c/wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

India: Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Hanuma Vihari, KL Rahul/Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini/Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah [As confirmed by BCCI]


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Cheteshwar Arvind PujaraAjinkya Madhukar RahaneTimothy David PainePatrick James CumminsSteven Peter Devereux SmithShubman GillIndiaAustraliaIndia tour of Australia, 2020/21

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