As team India set to lock horns with the baggy greens for what is billed to be the most exciting contest for the year 2020 and early 2021, both sides have been hit with late injury concerns and some unfortunate omissions.
While part of the hype billed up for the series was the defending champions of the Border Gavaskar trophy taking on a full strength Aussie team at home, some of that sheen is gone with David Warner ruled out of first Test.
Australia will also go without the services of the upcoming talent of Will Pucvoski for the first Test, while there are injury clouds on Mitch Starc and Cam Green as well.
Also with Joe Burns being completely out of form, Australia might go with a radical opening pair.
India on the other hand are hit by the current hard times that we are living in.
In a normal scenario, Virat Kohli might have missed the second Test to welcome fatherhood, but could have potentially played the last two Tests had there been no hard quarantine for 14 days as mandated.
Similarly despite their injury concerns, both Rohit and Ishant Sharma would have better chance of participation in this series – although they still might.
As team India start their fresh overseas Test assignment, some of their old problems resurface – namely who would be the second opener, who would be the third seamer, the lone spinner and the wicketkeeper?
In addition, they have to also decide who would be their new No.4 once Virat leaves and how to rope back Rohit Sharma when he arrives.
India would be potentially without their two prolific batsmen Virat and Rohit, and their reliable fast bowler in Ishant Sharma for the better part of the series. That’s a massive loss, but that can also mean that they can play with more freedom as not many would not give them a chance this summer.
Let’s look at some of the pain points in the Indian line-up and their alternatives. For the openers, I see Mayank Agarwal being the first choice with some very good batting performances in the recent Tests as well as the recently concluded IPL.
The other opener could be a toss up between KL Rahul and Shubman Gill and both appear to be in good form. The one who misses out as an opener could replace Virat from the second Test onwards.
I think KL Rahul may just get a nod ahead, being the more experienced batsman and team India would like him to be their third/reserve opener when Rohit resumes the duty.
Coming to which, team India should prepare and plan ahead with the notion that Rohit would not likely participate.
I don’t see Rohit playing much part in this Test series, unless India are 0-2 down by the two Tests, or lost the second Test with one of the openers being horribly out of sorts.
Since Rohit would be coming off without much practice and also a hard quarantine and thus would not be in an ideal state.
Coming to the No.4, there is an interesting rumour of Ajinkya Rahane, the stand-in captain, potentially batting at No.4 once Virat leaves and moving from his normal No.5 position.
This sounds more aggressive and taking on the responsibility route, and sends the right signal to the opposition.
Vihari might play at No.5 or Gill could play at No.5 with Vihari at 6. Shubman Gill looked a million bucks in the warm ups he played, especially his driving to balls pitched up and should be the ideal replacement.
Also playing a little low in the order would fetch him better chance to perform better with a comparatively softer ball in what would be his debut series against a full fledged Aussie attack playing in their own den!
For the better part of this tour, Saha seemed to be front runner to play as the wicket keeper (wk), ahead of Pant, who seemed to have fallen a bit out of favour from the selectors.
But his 71-ball century in the warm up game would have done his chances no harm. And when playing against Australia in Australia, aggression is something which team India would want in their kitty, and Pant is perfectly capable of that and playing counter attacking innings if needed.
So I would be expecting Pant to don the big gloves at Adelaide.
Umesh Yadav should walk in as their third seamer, with good consistent performances in the past and with a bit of experience on his side. If India do play a spinner, Ravi Ashwin should get the nod ahead with Ravindra Jadeja not being available for the first Test.
Or if India do go with four seamers, Mohammed Siraj should break in. I don’t see team India fielding five specialist bowlers in any of the Test matches, as with Virat not being around it would weaken the batting further. And Adelaide being a day night Test, it does command an extra batter.
All said and done, this promises to be an exciting Test series. Not making any predictions, and team India’s omissions not withstanding, I still back them to be at least competitive throughout the series with some exciting talent on display!