The Indian team braces up to play a day-night warm-up game against Australia ‘A’ starting on Friday, a contest that will serve as preparation for the the first Test in Adelaide. An extra spinner in Kuldeep Yadav or an additional batsman in Hanuma Vihari – this selection choice will be a big consideration for the Indians.
The three-day game at the floodlit Sydney Cricket Ground will serve as proper simulation for the opening Test but the flat batting track here may not be ideal considering that the Adelaide Oval curator Damian Hough, according to Ian Chappell, will leave around 10mm grass cover on the strip for the first Test.
The match, which will be streamed live, may not feature skipper Virat Kohli, who has hinted that he wants to go on with his own preparation routine before the Test match. It could also be a tactical move to ensure that the Australians do not get a sneak peek at his long-format preparation.
“Playing it on and off is not my thing and I like to play the full game. I will talk to our physio and then decide on my participation,” Kohli had said after the completion of the T20 series.
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For Australia, new sensation Cameron Green will get another chance to impress skipper Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer while Mitchell Swepson will hope that when the third Test is played at the SCG in the New Year, he is under consideration.
Barring Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha, none of the other Indian batsmen or bowlers shone through brightly in the first warm-up game.
So, this will be the visiting team’s chance to sort out the combinations, including a decision on whether the K. L. Rahul will be preferred over Prithvi Shaw as Mayank Agarwal’s opening partner for the Adelaide Test.
Considering Shaw’s loose technique against quality seam and swing bowling and Shubman Gill still trying to find his feet at the top level, Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri, at least in the first Test, would like to bank on experience.
The other question would be whether India can afford to go into the Test carrying five specialist bowlers with perhaps an extra spinner in Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep, among all the players in this team, has more experience of playing with pink ball and with the kind of revolution he produces, he could make it difficult for batsmen to spot the black seam of the pink Kookaburra under lights.
India’s domestic batsmen faced that ordeal against Kuldeep in the first day-night Duleep Trophy held at Greater Noida in 2016-17.
But in that case, Saha or Rishabh Pant would have to bat at No. 6 and ideally against the second new ball.
Shastri had said in New Zealand that in overseas conditions, they look at Pant’s batting expertise, but the burly keeper-batsman has since lost confidence of the top brass along with his place in white-ball squads.
If India gives Pant - who has managed to shed the extra flab at training - a go in the second game, that could be a fair indication of the team management’s preference for the opening Test.
In case of a conservative approach, the four bowlers will be Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and R. Ashwin. Hanuma Vihari would then be expected to chip in with his part time off-breaks before the second new ball is taken.
Navdeep Saini was disappointing in the ODIs but India’s fastest bowler could get a game looking ahead at the remaining matches of the series.
India : Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, K. L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk).
Australia A : Sean Abbott, Joe Burns, Alex Carey (c, wk), Harry Conway, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Nic Maddinson, Ben McDermott, Mark Steketee, Will Sutherland, Mitchell Swepson, Jack Wildermuth.
Match Starts : 9am IST.
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