India has wielded the axe after its record Adelaide collapse, bringing in four fresh faces for today’s Boxing Day Test against Australia at the MCG.
- Virat Kohli was already leaving the Test side for parental leave, while Mohammed Shami is out with a broken arm
- Wroddhiman Saha is out for Rishabh Pant, while paceman Mohammed Siraj will make his Test debut
- Australia leads the four-match series 1-0 after India’s incredible collapse of 36 all out in Adelaide
Captain Virat Kohli (parental leave) and Mohammed Shami (broken arm) were already forced omissions, but the changes have not ended there.
Explosive wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has earned a recall as the tourists aim to bounce back at the MCG.
Veteran keeper Wriddhiman Saha makes way for Pant, while the uncapped Shubman Gill comes in for an out-of-sorts Prithvi Shaw.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is over his injury concerns and has been included, as has pace debutant Mohammed Siraj.
With star opener David Warner still injured, Australia will take an unchanged line-up into the second Test as it seeks to go 2-0 up in the blockbuster series.
India had the edge over Australia heading into day three of the first Test before an almighty collapse saw the tourists skittled for 36 — the lowest total in their history.
Batsman Ajinkya Rahane takes the reins from Kohli for the remainder of the four-Test series and says he is unconcerned by the mind games happening in the wake of the dramatic second innings capitulation.
Australian coach Justin Langer declared he would be fine if the tourists were feeling the pressure after the eight-wicket loss.
“Australians are very good at playing mind games and we let them do that,” Rahane said.
“We are just focusing on ourselves, what we want to do as a team, as a unit, and we will back ourselves as a team.”
Rahane says India will take confidence from its resounding win against Australia at the MCG in 2018, which ensured it retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
The teams then played out a draw at the SCG, meaning India won a Test series in Australia for the first time, taking the spoils 2-1.
‘If we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile’
Australia is still heeding the lessons of its flat end to last year’s Ashes and is focused on not faltering in the Boxing Day Test.
Cricket legends, including Ricky Ponting, believe the tourists’ historic collapse could bring about mental scars and result in a disastrous defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
While India seem to be in crisis, Australian captain Tim Paine does not have to think too hard about how easily complacency can set in.
Australia celebrated hard after retaining the Ashes in England last year for the first time since 2001, but then dropped the fifth Test as the hosts levelled the series at 2-2.
“The moment we take our foot off the pedal, and think we’re going all right [performances can slip],” Paine said.
“We saw in England in that fifth Test we can come unstuck pretty quickly.
“A huge focus of ours since that fifth Test since the Ashes has been winning after winning.
“But we’ve been fantastic in how we’ve prepared for this game.
“We can’t pay any attention to mental scars or whatever people are talking about. India is a proud cricket country, they’re an extremely talented side.
“We know some of the players they’re talking about coming in … if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”
This encounter would normally draw a crowd of up to 80,000, but just 30,000 people will be allowed into the MCG.
Despite the strange build-up due to COVID-19 restrictions, Paine is happy just to be playing the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
“Seeing the MCG sometimes with 30,000 in it you’re a bit disappointed when you turn up,” he said.
“To have 30,000 fans there is certainly better than not playing the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, so everyone’s excited.”
Joe Burns, who entered the series under fire, will again partner Matthew Wade at the top of the order after the Queenslander’s unbeaten 51 in the first Test.