MUMBAI: Rattled by their sensational collapse in Adelaide, India might completely revamp their XI for the second Test in Melbourne, ringing as many as five changes, TOI has learnt. Two of the changes are forced because of Virat Kohli’s absence and Mohammed Shami’s injury.
“Opener Prithvi Shaw could be replaced by KL Rahul, talented youngster Shubhman Gill will make his Test debut, replacing skipper Virat Kohli at No 4. Hanuma Vihari may make way for the fit-again Ravindra Jadeja. Wriddhiman Saha could lose his wicketkeeper’s spot to Rishabh Pant, and either of Mohammed Siraj or Navdeep Saini can replace injured pacer Mohammed Shami,” a BCCI source said.
As Siraj and Saini are already a part of the squad, the BCCI is unlikely to name a replacement for Shami, who fractured his hand in the second innings while fending off a Pat Cummins bouncer.
Shaw showed enough technical deficiencies to suggest he may not be ready for Test cricket yet, as leg-spin great Shane Warne quipped after the game. What makes his case worse is his poor fielding. In Shaw’s absence, Mayank Agarwal could open the batting with KL Rahul, who was in blazing form in the IPL, finishing as the top run-scorer.
However, as former India batsman turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar pointed out, Rahul has had his share of poor performances in the last five Test series that he has played in. In his last five series, Rahul’s averages read: 7.1 against South Africa, 29 against England, 18 against the West Indies at home, 10.7 versus Australia (on India’s last tour in 2018-19), and 25.4 versus the West Indies.
“In cricket, form is everything, and he’s in form,” said the source.
Meanwhile, having impressed everyone with knocks of 43 (off 58 balls) & 65 (off just 78 balls) in the second warm-up game in Sydney, Gill is set to make his Test debut in the absence of Kohli. Though he can open, Gill is set to bat at Kohli’s usual No 4.
The unimpressive Vihari, who managed just 16 and 8 in Adelaide, will make way for Jadeja. “This way, we get an all-rounder at No 6. We can then enjoy the luxury of five specialist bowlers – two spinners and three pacers,” said the source. It helps that Jadeja is a ‘gun fielder,’ and will help lift India’s fielding standards.
Saha was out to poor shots in both innings in Adelaide, and his normally safe wicket-keeping was also not at its best. Pant had cracked an unbeaten hundred off just 73 balls in the second innings of India’s second warm-up game, which was played with the pink ball, against Australia ‘A’. The young wicketkeeper wasn’t in good form in the IPL, but had scored a hundred in the fourth and final Test in Sydney on India’s last tour to Australia. It helps that he’s a left-hander and can attack the ball, something which can make up for the ultra-conservative approach adopted by some of India’s top-order batsmen these days.
Shami is likely to be replaced by Siraj or Saini, though at the moment, Siraj, who took 3/83 in the first warm-up game, holds the edge. “The good thing is that both Siraj and Saini can generate good pace,” said the source.
INDIA’S CHANGES FOR BOXING DAY TEST
KL Rahul to replace Prithvi Shaw in opening slot
Shubman Gill to fill Virat Kohli’s big boots at No. 4
Ravindra Jadeja to replace Hanuma Vihari at No. 6
Rishabh Pant will come in; wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha will go out
Between Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini, Siraj has the edge when it comes to replacing the injured Mohammed Shami