Australia and India reveal changes to their Playing XI’s for the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Australia have made one change to their XI for the third Domain Test, with Mitchell Marsh called in for Peter Handscomb.
Skipper Tim Paine revealed his side for the Boxing Day Test following Australia’s Christmas morning training session at the MCG.
Meanwhile India have suffered a blow with team management confirming spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has not fully recovered from an abdominal strain and won’t be available for the MCG Test, with the BCCI also confirming their XI. India have made three changes after their Perth defeat.
India have responded dramatically to their loss to Australia in Perth, remarkably dropping both of their openers among three changes for the third Domain Test.
The tourists announced their XI on the eve of the third Test at the MCG, dropping KL Rahul and Murali Vijay as well as paceman Umesh Yadav.
Rahul and Murali, averaging 12.00 and 12.25 for the series respectively, had been under pressure to hold their spots with the series tied 1-1.
But the decision to axe both openers smacks of panic for an Indian side which has relied heavily on Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane for runs during the series.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja comes into the XI after missing the first two Tests, batsman Rohit Sharma has been recalled and Mayank Agarwal is set to make his debut.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
India XI: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
It’s a long series, our bowlers have had a really big workload and we feel we’re going to need Mitch’s bowling at some point, Paine told reporters.
I’m sure Pete would be upset. I think he’s had conversations with the selectors that there’s a few things they would like him to work on and Pete is open to that.
“Pete at his best is going to score a lot of Test runs and not just his batting, he brings a hell of a lot to our side in terms of his fielding, his experience and just the way he generally goes about his cricket. We’re sure he’ll score a lot more runs for Australia.”
Paine said he didn’t believe dropping a player from a winning XI would impact Australia’s momentum in the four-game series.
“No I don’t think so, we did it last year during the Ashes as well. The majority of this decision’s been based around it’s a long series, we’ve played on a lot of hot days and our bowlers have had a big workload.
We believe Mitch can come in and do a really good job with the bat and obviously he’ll give great support to our bowlers.
Marsh was dropped for the opening two Tests of the series but the MCG pitch, and Handscomb’s form across the matches in Adelaide and Perth, brought the Western Australian back into calculations.
Handscomb’s scored 34, 14, 7 and 13 across those four innings and his lbw dismissal in Perth, pinned deep in his crease by Ishant Sharma, prompted Shane Warne to liken the under-pressure batsman to “a lamb to the slaughter”.
Paine said Handscomb would come into consideration for the fourth Test at the SCG, typically the most spin-friendly of the Australian pitches.
“Going to Sydney, a place where it normally spins, I think people come back into the fold pretty quickly because he’s renowned as probably our best player of spin,” Paine said.
Kohli was optimistic enough work had been done on the pitch to ensure a result.
Seeing the pitch now, it has much more grass than it had last time, Kohli told reporters prior to the XI being announced.
“I hope that it’s a lively pitch. I hope that it does as much as it did in the first two games because as a side, you know you’re always in for a result that way.
The surface, what I saw yesterday looked pretty dry underneath. There’s a good coverage of grass which should keep the surface intact.
“I think it should have enough for the bowlers to be interested on all days of the Test match and hopefully it’s a much more lively wicket than the last time we played here.”
Domain Test Series v India
1st Test, Dec 6-10: India won by 31 runs
2nd Test, Dec 14-18: Australia won by 146 runs
3rd Test, Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
4th Test, Jan 3-7: Fourth Test, SCG