The biggest name who will not be there in Indore is obviously captain Pat Cumminswho had to return home to be with his ailing mother. It has allowed Steve Smith to take over as captain, a move that the Aussies may not mind too much.
Smith was the Australian captain in the 2016-17 series when they ran India close. And he averages more as captain — 67.73 to 55.33 when he is not in charge. The master batsman is not burdened by captaincy and has the ability to raise his game, which hasn’t been the case with Cummins, at least in India.
“Smith is a good captain and has an excellent rapport with the players. He understands the dynamics of Indian conditions and will get most of the players who were there in the 2016-17 series as well,” Sridharan Sriram, who was the assistant coach of Australia in that series, told TOI.
With Cummins opting out, Mitchell Starc will come into his place and he is likely to be a bigger threat than the skipper.
“Starc can move the ball at a pace and can take the pitch out of the equation. He has the ability to run through tails and has also been very effective against Rohit Sharma over the years. Starc will be a big boost for the Aussies,” Sriram said.
With Josh Hazlewood too going back with an injury, Australia will have no conflict about who the second pacer will be. All-rounder Cameron Green, who is fit to take the field for the third Test, will fulfil the duty.
“He is a terrific cricketer, has a long reach and has the ability to hit really big. With the ball, he can work up a good pace too,” Sriram added.
Now that Australia will not be forced to play Cummins and Starc together, they will comfortably be able to accommodate the three spinners — offies Nathan Lyon and Tod Murphy along with left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann.
No selection dilemma at the top David Warner was struggling as an opener and it was not just against spinners. He fell twice to Mohammed Shami while in the second innings of the first Test, his short stint against spin was a torture for all parties concerned — except India.
Many Australian pundits, including Ricky Ponting, wanted Warner dropped and now that he has been ruled out, the visitors don’t have to think twice about promoting Travis Head.
Head played well for a while in the second innings at Kotla and didn’t look in much discomfort against spin and pace as he scored 43 off 46 balls on a crumbling pitch.
Will Australia really miss Pat Cummins in Indore?
“It’s a no-brainer, he will continue there and Green will fill the slot that will open up in the middle-order,” Sriram said.
It was Matt Renshaw, who batted thrice in the series so far, in the second innings of the second Test as Warner’s concussion substitute. After his terrible struggle against spin, the Aussies will definitely not go back to him.
“The combination, on paper, looks better for Australia. But finally it will come down to how they apply themselves,” Sriram said.
Come another red-soil turner in Indore in three days’ time and we’ll know now whether the new-look Australian side has learnt from its mistakes and made the most of the 10-day gap.