KL Rahul's Exit Leaves Indian Batting With Fewer Options
KL Rahul's exit from the India squad due to wrist injury has left India with fewer batting options going into the third Test against Australia. India is already missing their batting mainstay and regular captain Virat Kohli, who has returned home for the birth of his child.
Rahul could have made the playing eleven in place of either his Karnataka teammate Mayank Agarwal at the opening slot or at No. 5 in place of Hanuma Vihari. Both Vihari and Agarwal had impressed during the 2018-19 tour but are struggling to get runs during the ongoing series.
While Agarwal has aggregated just 31 in the four Test innings he has played, Vihari has 45 in three innings.
If India bring in Rohit Sharma, he would be playing competitive cricket for the first time in almost two months. The 33-year-old Rohit, who has also been named the vice-captain for the remainder of the series, has also not played a red-ball game since November 2019 and has only a few days of net practice in Australia to get his bearings ahead of the third Test.
India head coach Ravi Shastri had said after the win at Melbourne Cricket Ground that Rohit would not straightaway walk into the Test side and the team management will observe him in the nets before taking a call.
There have also been talks of retaining the opening partnership of Agarwal and Shubman Gill and not changing the batting line-up at all.
India also faces a headache in the bowling department. With both Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami out due to injuries, the Ajinkya Rahane-led side will now have to consider bringing in one of Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, or T Natarajan into the playing XI to support Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj. Thakur and Natarajan have replaced Shami and Umesh.
India could also go in with just two pace bowlers and include another specialist spinner, Kuldeep Yadav to add to the Ashwin-Jadeja duo considering that the surface at the Sydney Cricket Ground is generally spin-friendly.
Australia coach Justin Langer on Tuesday acknowledged that India's bowling has helped them win three out of the last six Tests in Australia so far.
"India, their greatest strength over the last couple of series, has been their (bowling's) discipline, they have been so disciplined," said Langer while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.