The tourists stand on the verge of a maiden Test series win Down Under following their 137-run win in Melbourne but have a final balancing act to perform in terms of selections.
Rohit Sharma, who scored a half-century in the Melbourne win, has returned to India to welcome the birth of his daughter and will play no part at Sydney. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, is, in all probability, out of the encounter too after failing to recover in time from his side strain.
Despite his fitness woes, Ashwin has been given until the morning of the Test to recover with the off-spinner being named in the 13-man India squad for Sydney.
India name 13-man squad for SCG Test: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, H Vihari, R Pant, R Jadeja, K Yadav, R Ashwin, M Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav— BCCI (@BCCI) January 2, 2019
A decision on R Ashwin's availability will be taken on the morning of the Test #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/4Lji2FExU8
The surprising omission from the 13-man squad is Ishant Sharma who has been excellent for India in the series. While Ishant and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have failed to make the cut, pacer Umesh Yadav and opener KL Rahul have been included in the line-up.
As such, Rahul is expected to open the batting for India at Sydney alongside Mayank Agarwal while Hanuma Vihari drops back to the No6 spot vacated by Rohit’s departure.
However, most of skipper Virat Kohli’s selection headaches heading into Sydney surround the bowling department. With Sydney traditionally holding something for the spinners, the India skipper will be tempted to play two slower bowlers.
Ravindra Jadeja will most certainly hold on to his spot in the playing XI for India while Kohli has talked up the part-time spin of Vihari as a wicket-taking option in Sydney. Still, the tourists could introduce wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the playing XI to compliment Jadeja.
The question for Kohli and India is whether to field a two-man spin attack with two pacers or a three-man pace attack with just one specialist spinner.
A third option in the form of going in with five specialist bowlers exists too for the visitors but that looks to be the least likely route they will take.
Australia, on the other hand, have selection dilemmas of their own with their batsmen failing to get going in the series. Opener Aaron Finch has been woefully out of touch at the top and could drop down to a more natural spot in the lower middle-order.
Skipper Tim Paine has refrained from announcing his playing XI just yet although Marnus Labuschagne is expected to be introduced in the playing XI. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh will in all probability make way for Labuschagne’s return to the Test squad.
EXPECTED PLAYING XIs
Australia: Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Shaun Marsh, Aaron Finch, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (captain & wk), Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.
India: Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav/Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
Know more about Sport360 Application