India, Australia Switch Up Opening Partnerships For Crunch Sydney Test
Australia and India will both take new-look opening partnerships into the high-stakes third Test in Sydney, with star players David Warner and Rohit Sharma set to add firepower after injury layoffs.
The cricketing heavyweights head into the clash on Thursday with the series locked at 1-1, with both desperate for a win ahead of the final game in Brisbane next week.
Barring last-minute hiccups, Australia will welcome back veteran Warner with Will Pucovski tipped to make his debut alongside him after Joe Burns was dumped.
There had been speculation that selectors may stick with makeshift opener Matthew Wade even if Pucovski was fully recovered from the latest in a series of concussions.
But skipper Tim Paine hinted the 22-year-old would play, which would see Wade drop back to his favoured number five and Travis Head likely axed.
"Davey's been awesome, he brings really high intensity. It fills guys with confidence around him, he's a player that you love having on your side," said Paine of Warner's return from a groin injury.
"He's always got plenty to say, really energetic, very professional."
"And Will's been fantastic as well," he added. "He's been out of the bubble for a couple of weeks, but he's excited, he's fresh. He looks ready to go if he's called upon."
If Pucovski plays, he can expect a bouncer barrage as India look to unsettle a man who has been concussed nine times already in his career.
But after a neurologist on Monday gave him the all-clear from his latest head-knock, Paine said he had no concerns.
"Will's been hit in the head a few times, but he plays the short ball really well. And as long as he's comfortable, then we're comfortable and so far he's indicating that he's good to go."
India will also have a fresh feel with the big-hitting Sharma back after missing the first two Tests.
He injured his hamstring during an Indian Premier League game in October and only joined the squad last week, but will open alongside youngster Shubman Gill, who keeps his spot after an impressive debut in the second Test at Melbourne.
Mayank Agarwal, who has struggled for runs, misses out.
"We are all really excited to have him (Sharma) back in the team, especially with his experience at the highest level, which matters a lot," said stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane.
Sharma's return is big bonus for India whose batting has been weakened by captain Virat Kohli's departure for paternity leave after the opening Test in Adelaide.
They also have a new-look attack with Navdeep Saini making his debut in place of Umesh Yadav, who hurt his calf in Melbourne and is out of the series. India were already without injured regulars Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.
But led by Rahane, they bounced back from an eight-wicket defeat in Adelaide to win by the same margin in Melbourne.
"In Melbourne we played some good cricket, everyone contributed a lot," said Rahane.
"But whatever happened in Melbourne is history now. Australia is a very good team, especially playing in Australia, they are a dangerous team and we respect that."
Australia pad up at the Sydney Cricket Ground for what will be a home Test for many.
Their attack -- Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon -- are all from New South Wales, as are Warner and Steve Smith.
"All of our bowlers are obviously New South Welshmen, they know the wicket very well, they exploit the conditions very well and they bowl really well as a group here, said Paine.
"It's the same with our batting. Our two best batsmen, this is their home ground, this is where they do their best."