India have won only one Test in Sydney and that came in the 1977/78 series. (Image credit: Twitter)
For many Indian cricket fans, the Sydney Test represents a huge dream. After 41 years, Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team have a chance to achieve history. In 1977/78, India came into the Adelaide Test and lost the match by 47 runs in their pursuit of 493. In 2018/19, with India ahead 2-1, only a catastrophic loss can prevent them from squandering a golden opportunity. All the previous overseas woes, all the whitewashes of the past year suffered outside the sub-continent will be forgotten if they avoid defeat in Sydney. However, heading into the match, both sides are making changes. Australia, out of sheer desperation while India are being forced into making some changes.
The BCCI’s confusing injury-management issues came to the fore in deciding the 13-man squad for the Sydney Test. Ravichandran Ashwin, who was initially ruled out of the Test after failing to recover from the left side strain, suddenly was included in the side with the team management stating that a decision will be taken on the day of the Test. Ishant Sharma was also ruled out at the last minute and there was some confusion regarding Mohammed Shami but all doubts were dispelled.
In the batting, the return of KL Rahul in the side once again deepens India’s conundrum in the batting. Looking at Rahul’s confidence, should he play in the middle order or should they persist with him opening the batting? Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari did a great job in Melbourne and it will be interesting to see what tactics does Kohli employ.
Even the bowling composition will be interesting. With the Sydney Cricket Ground favouring spinners, should India play two spinners? If Kohli employs the two-spinner tactic, then Kuldeep Yadav might fit in and partner Ravindra Jadeja. Thus, a four-pronged attack, with Jadeja the bowling all-rounder might be the way to forward on the Sydney wicket.
Hosts aim fresh start
For Australia, anything that could go wrong for them in 2018 went wrong. They lost both their best batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner due to the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town. They won only three Tests in 2018, suffered big and dramatic losses in the other Tests against South Africa and Pakistan. Tim Paine’s side now face the prospect of losing a Test series for the first time at home to an Asian nation.
Paine admitted that inexperience in the batting was hurting the team. “We are constantly a work in progress...as I said before, it is about trying to keep a bit of perspective, a reality about where we are at. I think we are showing signs of getting better. I think in the last Test while our batters didn't set the world on fire, most guys got a start and showed that they can succeed at this level. So, in this Test, there is going to be a real focus from our batting group,” Paine said.
The Australian team have also made changes, with Usman Khawaja set to open the batting while Peter Handscomb replaces Mitchell Marsh. Marnus Labuschagne will be the spin partner for Nathan Lyon. The bowling has been Australia’s lone spark but the batting has to fire if they are to win the Sydney Test and come back on par.