The Indian cricket team is all set to kick off the much-coveted 4-match Test series against hosts Australia with the opening match, being a day-night Test, at Adelaide Oval in Adelaide from December 17.
Ahead of what promises to be a nerve-wracking contest for the fans to witness, former India cricketer turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar has picked the probable XI for Team India versus Tim Paine & Co.
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Though there’s the problem of plenty for the visitors in the current lot to pick the best XI, considering they have players and a few combinations to pick from for the opening spot, Manjrekar has zeroed down on Mayank Agarwal and a young Shubman Gill as the openers.
Mayank Agarwal had made his Test debut in Australia in the previous tour, scoring 195 runs in 3 innings, averaging 65.00, and striking 2 fifty-plus totals. He scored a gritty 65 in the second practice Test against Australia A at SCG.
Gill, batting at No 3, registered scores of 43(58) and 65(78) in the first and second innings respectively in the concluded practice match. The 21-year-old bats as an opener in the First-Class cricket for Punjab and could get the nod ahead of Prithvi Shaw at the top-order.
In at No 3 and 4 would be Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli, followed by Ajinkya Rahane to strengthen India’s middle-order. Pujara had a memorable run in the previous edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, piling over 500 runs with two hundreds, two Man of the Match awards, and was eventually adjudged as the ‘Player of the Series’.
Virat would be missing out on the remaining three Tests as he would be on paternity leave and will fly back home after the Adelaide Test, so it makes all the more important for him to lay a tone in the opening match of the series. In his absence, Rahane would be leading the touring side.
For the wicket-keeper’s role, Manjrekar has picked Rishabh Pant who came up a fiery 103* off 73 deliveries in the second practice Test. The southpaw was the second-highest run-getter in the previous Border-Gavaskar series, amassing 350 runs with an unbeaten 159* in the final Test at SCG.
At no 6 is Hanuma Vihari, who rendered a gritty hundred in the practice match at SCG and would be eyeing to continue the momentum in the four-match series.
Among the bowlers, the veteran cricketer has gone for three pacers in Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav, and an off-spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin. On the last tour, Shami and Bumrah wreaked havoc on the bowling front and grabbed 21 and 16 wickets while averaging 17.00 and 26.18 respectively.
Ashwin had come with a match-winning performance at Adelaide Oval and with figures of 3/57 in the first innings and 3/92 in the second innings.
The Men in Blue had won the previous edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in the Australian conditions by a margin of 2-1, scripting victories in Adelaide and Melbourne, and a draw in the final Test at in Sydney. And with that win under the belt, India had become the first Asian side to register a series win over Australia in the longest format of the game.