Injury-ravaged India landed in Brisbane after a big breakout in Sydney that kept the series level at 1-1 but cost the visitors a bit more of their key personnel. Since the start of the test series in Adelaide in December 2020, India has lost Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja to injuries, while Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah have played through the pain in the Sydney test and their participation at full capacity in Gabba’s showdown could be questionable. Add to that the fact that Australia haven’t lost a test at the site since 1988 and the hosts could be forgiven for thinking they have the series up for grabs, especially with a full squad at their disposal.
However, the tenacity shown by India in Sydney where Ashwin and Vihari beat for 42.4 overs and the team for 131 in the fourth innings to save the Test paints a different picture.
Skipper Ajinkya Rahane and key drummer Cheteshwar Pujara have taken shape in the last two tests and in the absence of Virat Kohli they have stepped up to keep the series alive after the ignominy of 36 all in Adelaide.
While Ashwin, Bumrah and Jadeja lead the Indian wicket rankings, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini, who both debuted in the series, have 11 wickets between them.
For Australia, a Will Pucovski shoulder injury could open the doors for Marcus Harris to become David Warner’s opening partner.
The hosts’ two top scorers in this series, Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith, are reportedly looking to add more points to their kitty, as would all-rounder Cameron Green, who played with an 84 in the second inning in Sydney.
Ordinary returns with the bat for Matthew Wade and catch lost by Captain Paine behind the stumps in Sydney are a few reasons for concern for the hosts.
The bowling quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have been as good as ever with Cummins leading the wicket standings in the series.
While Pant suffered a blow to the left elbow in the last test, Wriddhiman Saha kept wickets for India in the second set. Both wicket keepers could play Brisbane with Pant as the batsman.
Kuldeep Yadav warmed up in the net on Wednesday and could be in line for his second try in Australia.
Shardul Thakur, added to the squad as a replacement for Shami, is also a likely replacement for Jadeja.
T Natarajan, in Umesh’s replacement squad, could also make his Test debut after impressing in the limited series.
With several injury issues and replacement options, India will need to dig deep to field their best XI under the circumstances.
However, with an Australia at full strength, even with a tenacious India, their task is reduced.
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