The Australian cricket team will look to bounce back from their eight-wicket loss in Melbourne when they face India in the third Test scheduled to start from January 7 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The ongoing four-match Test series is currently tied at 1-1 with the hosts winning the first Test match at the Adelaide Oval before India registered a win in the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

With the return of David Warner and Will Pucovski in the Australian Test set-up, I expect the hosts to make a strong comeback in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2021.

On the other hand, Team India received a massive boost in their batting with the inclusion of Rohit Sharma, who is set to act as deputy to stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane.

So, when these two sides cross swords in the Sydney Test on Thursday, I expect the following players from the two teams, India and Australia, to play a key role in it:

Rohit Sharma

All eyes will be on India’s vice-captain Rohit Sharma who missed India’s limited-overs series (3 ODIs and 3 T20Is) and two Test matches with a hamstring injury. With the Indian team struggling with their opening partnership in the first two Test matches, Rohit can solve the issue with his experience. The 33-year-old had done well as an opener during the South Africa home series in 2019 where he smashed two hundreds including a double-ton. Sharma’s last professional cricket match was for Mumbai in the Indian T20 league final last year, where he helped his side claim the coveted title. In my opinion, if he is fit then he will lead India’s batting order on Thursday.

Steve Smith

Australia talisman Steve Smith has struggled against the Indian bowling attack in the first two Tests. However, I reckon we are on the verge of seeing something special. The Sydney Cricket Ground has always been one of Smith’s favourite hunting grounds where he averages 67.89, which further outlines why India can have trouble in getting him out. Also remember, Smith is the highest run-scorer for Australia (from the current squad) in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. His tally of 769 runs at an average of 128.16 during the 2014-15 Test series is still one of the best, and I expect him to bounce back in the Sydney Test.

Mohammed Siraj

India Pacer Mohammed Siraj impressed everyone on his Test debut in the Boxing Day Test match. Interestingly, he became the first debutant for India in seven years to pick five wickets in a Test match. Siraj had finished the second Test match with the fifth-best figures for an Indian fast bowler on debut Test overseas, claiming five wickets for 77 runs in 36.3 overs. With India missing the services of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, the likes of Siraj and T Natarajan have grabbed their opportunities with both hands. I expect Siraj to play a major role in the third Test.

Mitchell Starc

Firstly, I want to congratulate Mitchell Starc for becoming the fifth-fastest Australian bowler to take 250 wickets in the longest format. The left-arm fast bowler has taken 59 Test matches to reach the milestone with Dennis Lillee topping the chart having claimed 250 wickets in just 48 games. The 30-year-old pacer has already troubled the famed Indian batting line-up by picking up eight wickets in the first two Tests at an average of 19.75. Starc needs to be at his very best if the home side wants to regain the advantage in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy.