India made two changes to their playing XI for the third Test against Australia, which begins at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
Navdeep Saini is set to make his debut in place of the injured Umesh Yadav, while Rohit Sharma replaces Mayank Agarwal as opener.
India’s XI for Sydney Test:
Rohit Sharma (vc)
Ajinkya Rahane (c)
Rishabh Pant (wk)
Earlier, Rohit was confirmed as the vice-captain once he rejoined the squad in Melbourne after serving his mandatory quarantine. For the Melbourne Test, Cheteshwar Pujara had been named as Ajinkya Rahane’s deputy. Rahane confirmed in the press conference that Rohit will be opening the batting.
Rohit, who has played 32 Tests, injured his hamstring during an Indian Premier League game in October and only joined the squad last week after coming out of 14 days’ quarantine on arrival in Australia. He has been getting up to speed in the nets and will open alongside youngster Shubman Gill, who keeps his spot after an impressive debut in the second Test at Melbourne.
Agarwal, who played the first two Tests but hasn’t scored higher than 17, misses out. The four-Test series stands at 1-1.
“We are all really excited to have him (Sharma) back in the team, especially with his experience at the highest level, which matters a lot,” said skipper Rahane. “He’s been batting really well in the nets.”
Rohit’s return is big bonus for India whose batting has been weakened by captain Virat Kohli’s departure for paternity leave after the first Test in Adelaide.
India also have a new-look attack with Saini winning the race to replace Umesh, who hurt his calf in Melbourne and is out of the series. He will bring extra firepower alongside Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj, with regular spearheads Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma both out of the series injured.
The third match starts in Sydney on Thursday and the final match of the series is set to be played in Brisbane. The series is currently tied 1-1. India are current holders of the Border Gavaskar Trophy and a drawn series will suffice for them retain it. However, there are World Test Championship points at stake. New Zealand are currently well-placed to finish top two should either India or Australia slip up in the remaining matches.
(With inputs from AFP)
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