Both India and Australia will aim to take a lead in the four-match Test series, currently leveled 1-1, when they square-off in the much awaited Boxing Day clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), starting here from Wednesday.
While India on Tuesday dropped both its openers — Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay, Australia made one change to their playing 11, bringing in Mitchell Marsh in place of Peter Handscomb for the third test of the Border-Gavaskar series.
Rahul has scored only 48 runs in four innings this series, which includes a highest of 44 in the second innings at the first Test in Adelaide. On the other hand, Vijay has scored just 49 runs from the four innings, including a highest of 20 in the second innings in the Perth Test.
The Indian openers have scored just 95 runs between them in eight innings of the first two tests in Adelaide and Perth. Meanwhile, the Indian selectors opted for left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, has recovered sufficiently from his shoulder stiffness, and debutant Mayank Agarwal, who is expected to open with Hanuma Vihari.
Jadeja’s inclusion comes after off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was ruled out of the third Test, who needs more time to recover from left abdominal strain.
Batsman Rohit Sharma has also been declared fit after he missed the Perth test, but ace pacer Umesh Yadav has been left out.
“Our aim is to put enough runs on the board to help our bowlers capitalize. And if we are batting second, we try to amass enough lead if the situation allows or at least match the target of the opposition’s total,” Indian skipper Virat Kohli told reporters on the eve of the third test.
“Our batsmen need to step up collectively. I won’t point out anyone individually whether someone needs to do that or not, but as a batting unit, we have to definitely put up a better performance,” he said.
Australian skipper Tim Paine said his bowlers have had a really big workload and the selectors felt the team needed Marsh’s bowling. Handscomb’s highest score in the last four innings has been just 34.
“We think Mitch can come in and do a really good job with the bat and, obviously, he will be a great support for our bowlers,” Paine told reporters.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
Australia: Tim Paine (Captain-wicketkeeper) Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.