India’s rearguard heroics to save the Sydney Test come at a heavy price for a visiting side who have already faced a variety of injuries and major absenteeism.
The men of Ajinkya Rahane bucked expectations to once again thwart Australia’s ambitions and kept the series level at 1-1 ahead of the final fight at the gabba. However, there are more injury problems for the walking wounded when they go to a place where the Aussies have not been beaten in more than three decades.
Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihar, and possibly even Ravichandran Ashwin are the latest names to join the injury boat that threatens to derail India’s attempt to keep the Border Gavaskar trophy.
After Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav were previously banned from the series, India will be forced to launch a completely revamped bowling attack with no experience whatsoever in Brisbane.
Mohammed Siraj – Two tests
These are the strange circumstances under which Siraj is likely to appear as the leader of the Brisbane bowling attack, despite having come to Australia as a capless player. After the injured Shami was replaced in the second and third tests, the sailor managed to present himself well with the red ball in hand.
His five wicket match match in Melbourne was instrumental in the Indian streak’s comeback, although he found it tougher in his subsequent Sydney overtures. Siraj’s world-class record so far has been encouraging and a bowling average of less than 24 was key to being rewarded with an India debut.
Its lines and lengths were generally on point, and its wobbly seam position has a knack for accepting wickets. After receiving alleged racial abuse in Sydney, Hyderabad-born Pacer could be set on fire to silence Australian fans in Brisbane.
Navdeep Saini – A test
The Delhi pacer wasn’t expecting a test debut in Australia but injuries mean he is now sure he will play for India in a row.
Saini claimed four wickets over the two innings on his first Test appearance, despite having leaked many runs of somewhat headstrong bowling.
A economy rate of more than four runs in Sydney epitomized Saini’s struggles to keep his attack on the batsmen persisted. In top-tier cricket, he averages close to 29, which is not a flattering look for a bowler who is now catapulted to the top tier of the game.
If India is to fight this in Brisbane, Saini needs to get its radar on a pitch that has historically helped fast bowlers. At the moment he looks like the weakest link in the possible Indian bowling attack.
T Natarajan – Possible debut
It is unlikely that Natarajan would have contemplated this scenario in his wildest dreams, and his fairy tale is likely to get even better in the days to come. The unannounced pacer from Tamil Nadu shot his way to instant play with his 2020 IPL displays and was selected for the Australia touring party to simply train alongside the main team.
The stars have perfectly aligned with the pacemaker with the left arm Down Under, and it could be limited to all three formats in the coming days.
He made a big impression in previous clashes against Australia after being called out of the blue due to various injuries. Eight wickets across the handful of T20I and ODI appearances have been a tremendous return on investment for a bowler largely unknown before 2020.
He’s clearly a man of form and confidence, but it’s important to note that test cricket is a different animal altogether. His ability to accurately roll Yorker may not be the greatest asset one can have with the red ball, although his left arm option poses a different type of threat.
The 29-year-old doesn’t have an abundance of top-notch experience either, and maintaining the intensity over five days could be a huge challenge.
Shardul Thakur – A test
If India is reluctant to take a risk on Natarajan, it is Shardul Thakur who could likely fill Bumrah’s boots in the gabba. Thakur’s only previous test appearance against the West Indies in 2018 lasted only 10 deliveries, with a thigh injury excluding the pacemaker from the rest of the clash.
While he may lack red ball experience for India, Thakur brings the experience of playing 29 limited overs games for his country. Like Saini, Thakur’s world-class record is nothing to write home about, and its 206 wickets have hit nearly 29 on average.
What he brings to the table above others is an added ability to wield the bat. Should Ashwin miss the Brisbane decision maker along with Jadeja, India could face a long tail. The possible inclusion of Thakur could help cushion the loss of both spin all-rounders.
Kuldeep Yadav – Six tests
Kuldeep Yadav will have fond memories of his only previous test appearance in Australia, when the left-wing spinner claimed a five-wicket train at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2019. He also did well against the same opponent on home soil three years ago, picking four wickets in the first innings of the Dharamshala Test.
Although the gabba has been a fast bowlers haven in the past, it is rare for India to perform an all-pace attack. Should Ashwin fail in Brisbane, Kuldeep is the only spin option available to visitors.
The enigma surrounding his wrist rotation has subsided recently, especially in the game’s shorter formats. However, given his previous success against the Aussies and their weaknesses against the spin, the 26-year-old could become an unlikely tourist trump card.
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