India will hand Test match debuts to Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj in the second Test against Australia starting from Saturday in Melbourne.
India head into the series 0-1 down and have made four changes to the XI that took the field in Adelaide. While Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami are enforced absences, Prithvi Shaw and Wriddhiman Saha have been left out of the team for the crucial match where India will be led by Ajinkya Rahane.
Gill, Siraj are joined by Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant as the four players who come into the side.
Cheteshwar Pujara has been named as the vice-captain of the side.
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Australia head into the Boxing Day clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on a high after a massive win by eight wickets inside three days in the opening Test at Adelaide.
The dramatic victory was built on the back of devastating spells from pace spearheads Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, who skittled India in the second innings for their lowest Test score of 36.
India’s playing XI for Melbourne Test:
Ajinkya Rahane (C), Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill (debut), Cheteshwar Pujara (VC), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj (debut)
India had quite a few selection dilemmas, with captain Virat Kohli missing the final three Tests of the series for the birth of his first child. Although India haven’t officially confirmed it, star paceman Mohammed Shami is also expected to be absent for remainder of the series after reportedly fracturing his wrist after being hit by a Cummins thunderbolt in Adelaide. It meant they will be without two of their first-choice bowlers, with Ishant Sharma ruled out before the series began.
Gill has replaced Shaw in the lineup, when many expected him to get the nod in Adelaide on the basis of his runs in the warm-up matches. The Punjab batsman has had scores of 33 (Canberra ODI), 0, 29, 43, 65 on this tour so far. Shaw had made 0 and 4 in the two outings at Adelaide Oval.
Shami has been replaced by Siraj with the latter getting the nod over Navdeep Saini. Siraj has a good first-class record and will look to exploit the bounce and carry on Australia’s pitches, given his high-arm action.
Jadeja, who suffered a hit on his helmet in the first T20I and has been sidelined since, returns to the Test XI as India have gone with two spinners. India have essentially strengthened their bowling instead of opting to replace Kohli with a specialist batsman.
Jadeja was the first to arrive at the nets for the training session on Thursday according to PTI and he was put through a fitness test as he ran between the wickets with a bat on his hand, two days before the Boxing Day Test.
Jadeja, who has bagged 213 wickets and scored 1869 runs in 49 Tests, had missed the final two T20Is and the first Test against the hosts due to a concussion and a hamstring injury suffered during the first T20I.
KL Rahul was thought to be in line to replace the batsman’s spot in the XI but with Rahane, as he did in the Dharamsala Test against Australia when he captained India, chose to mitigate the absence of Kohli by strengthening the bowling lineup and placing trust on Jadeja’s batting skills.
Rishabh Pant, who smashed a scintillating century at SCG in the warm-up match, replaces Saha in the XI as the wicket-keeper. Pant enjoyed a great series with the bat in Australia last time around and will be playing his first international match since the New Zealand tour earlier this year. He has been out of favour in the white-ball formats.
Changes unlikely for Australia
Australia, on the other hand, plan to stick with the same XI according to coach Justin Langer.
With star batsman David Warner again ruled out injured, under-pressure opener Joe Burns, who scored a handy 51 not out in their second innings during the first Test at Adelaide, is set to keep his place at the top of the order.
Makeshift opener Matthew Wade is expected again to accompany him, with young allrounder Cameron Green retaining his spot in the middle order.
“I’d be a pretty courageous man to change the XI for this Test match after the last one,” said Langer.
“So at this stage, unless something happens over the next few days, and it can happen in the world we live in, we’ll go in with the same XI, I’d say.”
(With AFP inputs)