Team India earlier today announced the playing XI for the Boxing Day Test at MCG starting tomorrow. As expected, there are changes made to the line up at the top of the order. Mayank Agarwal, who was flown in as a replacement for Prithvi Shaw, will open the batting with Hanuma Vihari. Also making his comeback is Ravindra Jadeja as Ravichandran Ashwin hasn’t completely recovered from his injury.
The Indian openers have had a torrid time in Australia making just 97 runs in 8 innings combined. While Mayank Agarwal is a seasoned opener, piling up a mountain of runs in the past couple of seasons in First Class and List A cricket, Hanuma Vihari is a newbie. Although Vihari has opened for Hyderabad in the past and bats number 3 regularly in First Class cricket, this will be a new challenge on a ‘spicy’ pitch at the MCG. Chief Selector MSK Prasad speaking to media emphasized that Vihari as an opener is not a long-term solution at the moment. According to him, the rationale behind promoting Vihari to open the innings is his technique against the new ball and his willingness to play the long form.
Another change is a forced one with Ravindra Jadeja replacing Ravichandran Ashwin. There was a lot of criticism aimed at Kohli and Shastri after the Perth Test for going with 4 fast bowlers and overlooking Jadeja. The pitch not only offered assistance to spinners, but India were also left with a long tail that crumbled within a space of few minutes in both innings. Jadeja recently scored his first Test hundred against England and will be looked up to for a few useful partnerships down the order.
India also resisted the temptation to play all-rounder Hardik Pandya. The decision is partly based on Pandya’s match fitness and partly on India’s top order batting performance. Pandya might’ve gotten the nod ahead of a specialist batsman in Rohit Sharma if India were going in with a firing top order. But a new opening partnership and a misfiring Rahane means India has to go in with a specialist batsman at 6.
Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishab Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
Australia also made one change to their winning team from Perth. Mitchell Marsh comes back to replace Peter Handscomb who hasn’t converted his starts into big scores. Mitch Marsh’s medium pace bowling will also be handy on the pitch giving enough rest to their frontline seamers to keep their spells short and penetrative.
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (c & wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.