The Indian cricket team will look to make a strong comeback against Australia in the Boxing Day Test, which is scheduled to start from December 26 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Virat Kohli’s men really looked at the top of their game for the first two days of the pink-ball Test, before a batting debacle on the third day saw them getting bundled out for their lowest-ever Test score of 36 runs.
The Aussies have taken a 1-0 lead in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a comprehensive eight-wicket win on Saturday. And with India missing the services of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami for the Test series, it’s going to be a challenging task for the Men in Blue Down Under.
However, I expect India to show more grit in the absence of such veterans and with changes in personnel imminent ahead of the Boxing Day Test, here are two players from India and Australia each who I think will be in the spotlight during the Melbourne Test.
All eyes will be on India’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane as the visitors look to pick up the pieces. Rahane was involved in a disastrous run-out with Kohli in the Adelaide Test, which had opened the gates for Australia to come back in the game. The 32-year-old looked in fine touch though, on a tricky Adelaide pitch as he scored 42 runs in the first innings. The middle-order batsman had smashed an unbeaten hundred (117) against Australia A in their first practice match at the Sydney Cricket Ground and India should expect something similar from their stand-in skipper in Melbourne.
The world’s top-ranked Test bowler and Australia’s wrecker-in-chief in their one-sided win over India in the Adelaide Test, 27-year-old Pat Cummins will be crucial in Australia’s challenge. The fast bowler scalped seven wickets for just 69 runs in the first match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and his second innings scalps included that of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Prithvi Shaw. In the 2018-19 home series against India, the Australian speedster had a decent outing where he had scalped 14 wickets at an average of 27.78. I expect Cummins to continue his incredible form in the Boxing Day Test.
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin stole the show on the second day of the Adelaide Test as he had bagged four wickets to put the visitors in a dominant position. Ashwin had almost mimicked Imran Tahir's celebration after the 34-year-old got the huge wicket of Steve Smith for 1 during the second session on Day 2. The off-spinner dented Australia’s middle order to ensure that India had a first innings lead of 53 runs. Ashwin looked in a great rhythm and bowled with excellent control that had unsettled the hosts early on. He is expected to play an important role once again when India take to the field in the Melbourne Test.
All-rounder Cameron Green made his debut in the first Test against India at the Adelaide Oval. Green has been a promising prospect for some time now as he impressed many with his brilliant unbeaten century (125*) for Australia A during the first practice fixture in Sydney. The 21-year-old has featured in 22 First-class matches so far, scoring 1332 runs at an impressive average of 53.28. Green has been likened to England all-rounder Ben Stokes by compatriot Josh Hazlewood and he is tipped to play a pivotal role in the Boxing Day Test starting on December 26.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ William West