Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team are on the cusp of a historic series win Down Under. The 137-run win in the Boxing Day Test has given India a 2-1 series lead heading into the Sydney Test. With Kohli’s side having retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the team must avoid defeat to become the first Asian nation to win a Test series Down Under. However, the Indian cricket team are facing some issues related to selection. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma are under an injury cloud, with Kohli all but ‘ruling out’ the offspinner for the Test. While the Indian team has announced the 13-man squad, the decision regarding the playing XI and the fitness status of both Ishant and Ashwin will be made just before the toss.
However, the injury to these two players and with Rohit Sharma also missing the Test due to the birth of his daughter, there are some slots available in the batting and bowling line-up. There is a big debate regarding what should be the composition of the playing XI in Sydney. Here is the analysis of what should be India’s playing XI for the final Test, which will take place on a pitch which will assist the spinners a lot more.
Openers (1,2): Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul/Hanuma Vihari
Mayank Agarwal displayed magnificent technique and presence of mind in the Melbourne Test in which he smashed 76 and 42 on debut. His fifty displayed his maturity and had a calming influence on the Indian batting order. However, with Rohit Sharma not in the squad, there is every chance that Hanuma Vihari might drop down to the No.6 position. This gives KL Rahul yet another chance to cement his place at the top of the order. For Rahul, Sydney gives him another opportunity to shine on the international stage, having smashed a century in 2015 after a woeful debut in Melbourne.
Middle order (3,4,5): Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane
Pujara has been the difference-maker for India in this series, with his centuries in Adelaide and Melbourne giving India victory. Kohli, on the other hand, has been sublime as always while Rahane has also contributed at vital times. However, the batting will be boosted if Rahane goes on to make a big score.
Nos 6, 7,8: Hanuma Vihari/KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja
With Rahul included in the 13-man squad, Hanuma Vihari might be demoted to No.6 like he was in Perth. However, looking at Rahul’s confidence at the top, it might be a good move for Kohli to push Vihari to the top and Rahul at 6 to boost the lower middle order. With the Sydney pitch giving assistance to the spinners, Ravindra Jadeja, who had a solid performance in the Melbourne Test, keeps his spot at eight as the bowling all-rounder.
Nos 9,10,11: Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav/Umesh Yadav
With the SCG wicket assisting spinners, India might play two spinners. If that is the case, then Kuldeep Yadav might team up with Jadeja for his first Test Down Under. In case India opt for four pacers, then Umesh Yadav might come into the side to pair up with Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. With Ishant Sharma ruled out, the chances of Umesh playing might brighten if India go for a four-pronged pace attack.
NOTE: All could change if Ravichandran Ashwin is passed fit for the game. In case the offspinner is declared fit, India might play for Ashwin in place of Kuldeep or Jadeja
Playing XI according to batting order:
Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja/Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav/Umesh Yadav