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India play time with eye on sky

For India, even a draw can be considered equivalent to a win in the circumstances since Gabba is no less than a fortress for Australia
Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Indranil Majumdar   |   Calcutta   |   Published 15.01.21, 01:57 AM

In the lead-up to Brisbane, India had set a precedent of sorts by naming their XI a day before the three Tests. But ahead of the final game, they broke away from that practice. Fact is, though the series is still alive, the India camp has turned into a hospital ward following multiple injuries.

The reason behind not naming their XI until the toss on Friday is simple: India want to give enough time to their premier bowlers — Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin — to prove their fitness. While the fast bowler has been laid low by an abdominal strain, the off-spinner is nursing back spasms.

The Telegraph had reported on Wednesday that the team management was keeping all options open on Bumrah and would wait till the last minute before taking a call.

With the series poised at 1-1, India will retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by virtue of winning the last series in 2018-19 if they draw this Test at the Gabba.

“The injuries are still being monitored,” batting coach Vikram Rathour said at a virtual media conference. 

“Our medical staff is looking into them, they are working with the players. I won’t be in a position to comment exactly how it stands at the moment, we would like to give them as much time as we can.”

“Depending on advice from the medical team, we will take this call (on Bumrah). If he can play, he will play, if he can’t, he won’t,” Rathour said.

Sources confirmed that Bumrah is keen on taking the field but the team management wants to be sure that he will last the distance and not break down in the middle of the Test before deciding on his availability. If he does play, it will no doubt be his biggest challenge in terms of fitness and recovery.

Gabba is known for its pace and carry and that should be enough reason for the visitors’ eagerness to field Bumrah. If he doesn’t play, then T. Natarajan or Shardul Thakur will join Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj in the XI.

As things stand now, Ravindra Jadeja is a confirmed absentee for this Test from the XI that played in Sydney, while Hanuma Vihari is also unlikely to be available. 

The Indians’ cautious approach probably stems from the home team’s invincible record at the Gabba. While no Indian team has won a Test in Brisbane, the hosts have won 24 of the 31 Tests since November 1988 at this venue, without losing any.

But giving that competition would be Ajinkya Rahane’s clean record as a captain. Of the four Tests Jinks has led in, he has won three while the last one ended in a draw.
The stand-in captain has been inspirational though. After India were bowled out for 36 in the first Test in Adelaide, he took charge of the sinking ship and straightaway scored a stirring hundred to win the Melbourne Test. Perhaps that set the tone for the Sydney fightback.

Despite the injury worries, there’s some hope waiting in the wings. There is 80 per cent chance of a thunderstorm on Saturday. Monday has a 60 per cent chance of showers and Tuesday 70 per cent. 

For India, even a draw can be considered equivalent to a win in the circumstances since Gabba is no less than a fortress for Australia.

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