The prologue of the game revolves around Cheteshwar Pujara making his 100th Test appearance, which he would like to mark with a century that will also restore a sense of stability to the hosts’ top order.
India captain Rohit Sharma‘s century in Nagpur was an excpetion in the top order that couldn’t kick on, on the Nagpur track that offered slow turn. Opener KL RahulVirat Kohli and Pujara all failed to make the most of the opportunity.
The Rahul Conundrum
Time is running out for Rahul as Virat Kohli’s heir apparent, Shubman Gill, is waiting in the wings despite being in prime form.
Having wasted so many opportunities in his 46-Test career with a below par average of 34, it will be interesting to see what call is taken by the Indian team management if the 30-year-old Karnataka man endures another failure before the squad for the last two Tests is announced.
With Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja putting enormous pressure on the Australians during the hosts’ comprehensive innings win in Nagpur, one can confidently say that another slow turner will greet the visitors at the Ferozshah Kotla.
Unless Australia bat out of their skin, they won’t even be able to stretch it to the fifth day.
Special praise for a special player! 👏 👏Head Coach Rahul Dravid lauds @cheteshwar1 as he gears up for his 1⃣0⃣0⃣t… https://t.co/IRKOuL1lVl
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1676468383000
The Ferozshah Kotla tracks, after the initial moisture dries up, turn as dead as a dodo.
India head coach Rahul Dravid had no hesitation in admitting that in the recent past, it has been the middle-order troika of Ravindra Jadeja, the now-injured Rishabh Pant and the fit-again Shreyas Iyer that has bailed the team out on most occasions.
Even in the opening Test, it was left to the duo of Axar Patel and Jadeja to out-bat Australia.
The Kotla pitch promises to be a touch slower than Jamtha, and hence, the Indian batters need to follow their skipper’s template and employ a judicious blend of attack with defence.
With shorter boundary on one side, Australia skipper Pat Cummins will be wary of bringing in Nathan Lyon from the Old Pavilion end, as the leg side boundary would be barely 60 metres.
RETURN OF IYER?
Shreyas Iyer has completed his rehab after suffering a lower back injury and as per the current team management’s convention, any player who was performing before getting injured would get his place back in the playing XI.
Dravid, in fact, said that “if Iyer is able to take workload of five-day Test, he will walk into the side”.
If anyone knows Dravid, the operatives are always between the lines.
Iyer hasn’t played competitive cricket for more than 30 days and will it be risky to throw him straight into a Test match even before checking his match fitness? That’s a tricky call.
In the case of Surya, more than being Iyer’s replacement, India is looking at him replicating Pant’s cavalier approach in the middle-order as Kona Bharat is more of a keeper who can also bat decently.
WARNER’S POOR FORM
David Warner‘s lean patch in Test matches has been a matter of concern for Australia. The manner in which Mohammed Shami sent his off stump cartwheeling didn’t make for a pretty picture and whether he gets another chance remains to be seen.
With the Delhi track also expected to offer turn early in the game, Australia will be pushed hard to include a third spinner.
Mitchell Starc is another name that Australia missed badly in Nagpur, and the visitors would hope to have their premier pacer back in the pink to bolster the pace attack with his experience on a track not helpful to fast bowlers.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ishan Kishan (wk)
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Alex Carey (wk), Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscombe, Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Lance Morris, Mitchell Swepson, Todd Murphy, Josh Hazlewood, Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc
(With agency inputs)