#NewsBytesExplainer: Decoding Team India's possible combinations for MCG Test
India were handed a crushing defeat by Australia in the opening Test (D/N) at the Adelaide Oval. The batting group descended in the second innings as the tourists recorded their lowest-ever Test total (36/9d). Now, the departure of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami's untimely injury proliferate the miseries. Let us decode Team India's possible combinations ahead of the Boxing Day Test.
For starters, the young batting unit of India will miss the services of Kohli. Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane will also have to find a suitable replacement for Shami. Although the likes of Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj are in line for Test debut, India can also turn to Ravindra Jadeja. Meanwhile, the conundrum regarding wicket-keepers Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant continues to surface.
Shami has been the nucleus of India's bowling attack, especially in Test cricket. His absence will certainly mar Team India's plight, however, there are several resources in the arsenal. One of Navdeep and Siraj could be included in the XI, considering their raw pace. The duo was hostile in the Day/Night tour game, having bowled in tight areas.
The wicket at the MCG has been on the slower side lately. Although it still remains bowling-friendly, the spinners also get assistance here. Instead of playing three seamers, India could introduce two spinners in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Moreover, the latter's batting form is a plus. Wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav could also be looked upon, owing to the drift he produces.
On the 2018/19 tour, India won their first-ever Boxing Day Test in Australia. Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah starred with the ball, however, Jadeja provided the breakthroughs at crucial junctures. The latter picked up a total of five wickets in the match.
It is unlikely that the sluggish Prithvi Shaw gets retained by the management for the MCG Test. He will be replaced by the experienced KL Rahul, who also underwent a lean patch Down Under, last time around. That apart, the young Shubman Gill is expected to make his Test debut, and will try to fill in for Kohli in the middle-order.
Even after the first Test, the debate over the wicket-keeping slot seems to be doing rounds. Saha, who played in the series opener, was outclassed in both the innings by pace. On the other hand, Pant slammed a ton in his last Test innings Down Under (159*, SCG). However, the dilemma multiplies as Saha's glove-work overseas is deemed better than that of Pant.
Another possible combination could be playing both Saha and Pant together. With this method, Gill will have to wait for his debut as Pant could replace Kohli. Doing so will provide India with Pant's aggressive batting and Saha's steadiness.
Here is Team India's probable XI for the second Test: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill Ajinkya Rahane (C), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah.