Australia sprang a surprise by axing all-rounder Mitch Marsh while India opted for six batsmen in the 12-member squad for the first Test in Adelaide starting Thursday. Usman Khawaja’s return was confirmed despite the shock of his brother’s arrest in the teams announced on Wednesday.
India have left Bhuvneshwar Kumar out and the big decision they will have to make is the one between Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari for the No 6 spot in the batting order. The final playing XI will be announced by Virat Kohli at the toss.
In the only tour game before the first Test, Rohit scored 40 in the first innings and did not get a bat in the second innings. Vihari had a much heavier workload to contend with – 53 and 15 with the bat and a 12-over spell.
Rohit hasn’t bowled for a while and that might just Vihari the edge.
Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah will lead their pace attack – ranked among the country’s strongest ever – along with off-spinner Ravi Ashwin. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav missed out.
Batsmen Travis Head and Peter Handscomb were preferred to Marsh, piling more pressure on the bowlers, while Marcus Harris will make his debut as opener.
Captain Tim Paine said Marsh’s omission was due to a lack of consistency and he would benefit from returning to Sheffield Shield cricket to find form again.
Handscomb edged him out after two half-centuries last week and a century for Victoria the week before that.
“Mitch Marsh has not been as consistent as he would like and we would like,” said Paine at his pre-match press conference. We know the talent that Mitch has and we know that most likely at some stage in this series we will need him.
“We are taking the opportunity at the moment to go back and play a Shield game and get some cricket under belt.”
Debutant Harris will open alongside Aaron Finch, with Khawaja, whose brother was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly framing a colleague with a fake terror plot, coming in at first drop.
Khawaja, who is returning after ankle surgery, was not seen in the nets on Wednesday after his family crisis, although he is known to only take on a light workload the day before a Test.
Shaun Marsh will bat at four with Handscomb at five and Head at six.
The dumping of Mitch Marsh will add an extra burden for Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and spinner Nathan Lyon, who will have to take on more overs in what are forecast to be scorching hot conditions in Adelaide.
“We obviously have a lot of confidence in Nathan Lyon bowling a lot of overs if we need to,” said Paine.
“And probably the fact that all our three quicks go in real fresh. We have confidence in them, particularly at the start of the series.”
Australia XI: Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Peter Handscomb, Tim Paine (C), Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc
India XII: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, M Vijay, C Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, R Pant (WK), R Ashwin, M Shami, I Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
With AFP inputs