Ahead of their first overseas day-night test in Adelaide, India’s stars will get a feel for the pink ball when they face Australia A in Sydney on Friday.
The three day tour game is India’s last chance to better prepare for an epic four-test battle against the number 1 Australians. The meaning of the clash on Friday will not be lost for the Indians as several players on the roster will not have to play meaningful first class or red ball cricket for more than 10 months.
While Australia has most of its bases covered for the test series, both sides will look for key answers over the three days of play at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
INDIA’S OPENING KONUNDRUM
The biggest question mark for India in the test series is the makeup of the opening combination. Only Mayank Agarwal is currently guaranteed a spot after Rohit Sharma was excluded from at least the first two tests.
Somewhat surprising was that Agarwal was not approved for the first tour game against Australia A, although he did not make a single appearance in the ODI series with three games against the hosts. While it will be important for Agarwal to switch to test mode in Sydney, it is currently unclear who will partner with him at the top of the series.
Neither Prithvi Shaw nor Shubman Gill covered themselves in fame in the previous tour bout, and both teens bagged a duck in the first innings.
There is also an option to give KL Rahul a chance after his recall to the testing group, although tossing him straight into the cauldron against the formidable Aussies will be a risky trick. Whoever opens for India on Friday gives a much better indication of the Adelaide Test visitor schedule.
AUSTRALIA ARE LOOKING FOR REPLACEMENT GOODS
The hosts have their own opening problem after David Warner was excluded from the first test due to a groin strain. Warner’s absence will be a huge setback for the Aussies, especially given his impressive record at the Adelaide Oval.
To make matters worse for Australia, the other incumbent, Joe Burns, is currently in dire shape. His poor Sheffield Shield form did not improve in the last game against India A, in which he scored a total of four runs over two innings.
Burns will be given another trip to regain his confidence and the Aussies will pray that he can find his groove before they clash in Adelaide. Under normal circumstances, young Will Pucovski would have been guaranteed a test debut due to Warner’s injury.
However, the talented youth’s participation is now under a cloud after suffering another concussion injury.
The blow of a Kartik Tyagi bouncer on his helmet has excluded Pucovski from the three-day game and it is unlikely he will get his test bow in Adelaide now. This means that after his strong run at the Sheffield Shield, Marcus Harris is banned from a test recall as an opener.
Virat Kohli will only play the one test before returning to India on paternity leave, and visitors want their inspiring skipper to put on a big show in Adelaide.
What is worrying, however, is the fact that Kohli could miss the Sydney warm-up game due to the non-stop cricket for the past three months.
In his IPL efforts and in the clashes against Australia with limited overruns, the Indian captain was able to skip the practice game in order to be fully fit for the opening test.
“Let’s see how I wake up tomorrow,” said Kohli after the third T20I against Australia.
“If I feel great, I will definitely play. If not, I’ll speak to the physical therapist and trainer and have a few days off and be fresh for the first test. “
It’s important to note that Kohli hasn’t played red ball cricket since the second Test against New Zealand back in February this year. While one would expect champion players like him to adapt quickly to circumstances, going into the Adelaide Test with no practice could be a big gamble for the Indian superstar.
SIRAJ’S LAST CHANCE TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION
As Ishant Sharma will miss the first and second tests due to his injury, the third Pacer slot for India has been determined.
At the moment, it looks like India’s homework horse Umesh Yadav is going to get the nod despite its poor track record on Australian soil.
Ian Chappell’s recent revelations about his conversation with India coach Ravi Shastri suggest Yadav will play alongside Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in Adelaide. As such, Mohammed Siraj has one last chance to audition for a first test berth.
Although the Pacer had chosen three wickets in the previous tour game against Australia A, his lines and lengths were at times unpredictable. Siraj’s world-class record is impressive, with 150 wickets in 37 appearances, and he will want to make a solid impression in the Sydney clash.
A four-test streak is long, and there’s every chance one of India’s fastest bowlers has sustained an injury at some point. Siraj and Navdeep Saini are next in the pecking order, with the former slightly ahead due to his superior domestic track record.
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