India have done a fine job to remain on level footing in the four-match Test series against Australia after challenges the team has faced in terms of injuries.
After a morale-crushing defeat in the opening Test at Adelaide and Virat Kohli’s departure on paternity leave, few would have foreseen the Ajinkya Rahane-led side going into the final Test at Brisbane not just with a chance to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but claim it as outright winners.
Australia though couldn’t have asked for a better place to play the deciding Test than the Gabba. The hosts have an incredible record at the venue and haven’t lost a Test there since 1988.
“We love playing here, and one of the main reasons is because of that wicket. This is a good place to come and play, because I don’t have to go and look at it, I know what is going to be like,” Australian captain Tim Paine said ahead of the game.
India, on the other hand, have lost five out of the six Tests played there.
Beating Australia in Australia is a huge ask in itself, but at Brisbane, it’s a tad tougher.
Australia's record at home venues since 2000
|Venue||Matches played||Wins||Losses||Drawn||Win %|
India's Test matches at Gabba
|Australia||won||inns & 226 runs||28 Nov 1947|
|Australia||won||39 runs||19 Jan 1968|
|Australia||won||16 runs||2 Dec 1977|
|Australia||won||10 wickets||29 Nov 1991|
|draw||-||4 Dec 2003|
|Australia||won||4 wickets||17 Dec 2014|
The Gabba is also among the two venues where India are yet to win a Test match in Australia. The other being the newly-found Perth stadium where the team has only played one Test so far.
India's record in Tests in Australia
|Melbourne Cricket Ground||14||4||8||2||0.500|
|Sydney Cricket Ground||13||1||5||7||0.200|
|W.A.C.A. Ground, Perth||4||1||3||0||0.333|
|Brisbane Cricket Ground||6||0||5||1||0.000|
However, India will have to focus on their own issues and there are plenty of them going into Brisbane.
Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari are ruled out with injuries while Jasprit Bumrah is also unlikely to feature due to an abdominal strain. The team is already missing fast bowlers Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma through different injuries and captain Kohli is on paternity leave.
However, despite the obvious problems, there has been no shortage of fight and determination from the Indian team that was in full display in Sydney especially on the fifth day.
Jasprit Bumrah played with an abdominal strain and didn’t want to come out despite the experience being painful and Ravindra Jadeja with a broken thumb was ready to do what Malcolm Marshall did with a fractured wrist three decades back.
Vihari and Ashwin Ravichandra played out 289 deliveries among themselves with a hamstring injury and back problem respectively to dig India out of trouble. Even with a slightly better fortune, India were in a position to win the game at the SCG.
At Brisbane with India down to bare bones, the team was dealt another blow after Mayank Agarwal was hit on the forearm in the nets.
“We will take a call tomorrow. The medical team is working with all the injured players. If Bumrah is fit, he plays, if he is not fit, he doesn’t play,” batting coach Vikram Rathour said at the pre-match conference.
The combination has all gone for a toss and Ajinkya Rahane would only understand that discretion is the better part of valour.
India might just want to use the option of playing only four bowlers instead of a regular five in order to take the game deep with their batting.
If Agarwal is available, expect him to go in at number three after Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill with Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane coming a notch down.
There is an option of playing Prithvi Shaw or Wriddhiman Saha in place of Ravindra Jadeja, but off-spin all-rounder Washington Sundar’s name is also doing the rounds.
It’s the bowling attack that India will be worried about.
While Rathour kept cards close to his chest, it’s more about trying to deny opposition psychological advantage by playing the guessing game on Bumrah when the world knows that his participation is highly unlikely.
Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj with just three Tests in their kitty and Shardul Thakur, who bowled all of 10 balls in his debut Test two years back, do not exactly inspire confidence.
That too against a batting line-up where three of the top four batsmen respond to the name of David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. The second and third batters have shown what they can do with Indian attack and Warner is not known to fail in too many innings.
It’s a very difficult task at hand and whatever the result, this Indian team under Rahane has covered itself in glory with bare minimum resources.
There is a story to be told and Indians are scripting it. Hopefully, it has a happy end in hostile Brisbane.
Australia XI: Tim Paine (captain), David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood.
India squad: Ajinkya Rahane (capain), Rohit Sharma (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, T Natarajan, Washington Sundar.
Match Starts: 5:00 am IST.
(With PTI inputs)