India have dropped both openers and are set to hand a debut to Mayank Agarwal, as part of three changes to the line-up for the Boxing Day Test against Australia.
Agarwal, who has enjoyed a fruitful run in domestic cricket, making 3599 first-class runs at an average of 49.98, will become the 295th cricketer to represent India in Tests.
Openers KL Rahul and Murali Vijay have struggled through the first two Tests of the series, putting up just one half-century partnership. Replacing them will be Agarwal and most likely Hanuma Vihari, who is set for a promotion up the order.
India name Playing XI for 3rd Test: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah #TeamIndia #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/DImj8BVTj5
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 24, 2018
Rohit Sharma also returns to the side, having recovered from the injury he picked up in the first Test. There is still no Ravichandran Ashwin, however; all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja will take on spinner’s duties, with pace bowler Umesh Yadav left out.
Virat Kohli, the India captain, urged his batsmen to “step up collectively”. “Our bowling has been performing really well but at the same time, we have to ensure that as a batting unit, we are able to put up those runs on the board. Otherwise, the bowlers won’t be able to do anything with the totals,” he said.
“I think our aim must be to put that many runs on the board … The batsmen must step up collectively. I won’t say individually whether someone needs to do that or not, but as a batting unit, we have to definitely put up a better performance.”
Justin Langer has said that knowing Steve Smith's determination makes him feel "warm and fuzzy."https://t.co/Apgnrz8hUY
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 24, 2018
Australia, meanwhile, have brought back Mitchell Marsh, who had been left out of the first two Tests following disappointing returns in UAE against Pakistan.
Coach Justin Langer on Monday had called the all-rounder an “attractive commodity” and on Tuesday, December 25, the eve of the match, captain Tim Paine reiterated Marsh’s worth as a back-up to bowlers in a tough series.
“It’s a long series, our bowlers have had a really big workload and we feel we’re going to need Mitch’s bowling at some point,” Paine told reporters. “We believe Mitch can come in and do a really good job with the bat and obviously he’ll give great support to our bowlers.”
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 25, 2018
With Marsh returning, Peter Handscomb misses out. Paine, though, left the door open for his return in the final Test. “Pete at his best is going to score a lot of Test runs and not just his batting,” said the captain. “He brings a hell of a lot to our side in terms of his fielding, his experience and just the way he generally goes about his cricket.
“Going to Sydney, a place where it normally spins, I think people come back into the fold pretty quickly because he’s renowned as probably our best player of spin. I know he’ll be doing everything he can to get back into the side.”