India Predicted XI for 4th Test: Thakur and Kuldeep in consideration, India likely to play both Pant and Saha
For the first time in the series, India have not disclosed their Playing XI on the eve of a Test match and will hold on until the morning of the Brisbane Test match to finalise the players. Given the state of the Indian team and the number of injuries that have marred this squad, it was inevitable.
After Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari were ruled out of the fourth Test due to a fractured thumb and a Grade 2 torn hamstring, the team management are scurrying through to ensure the best combination takes the field against Australia in the series decider at the Gabba. With doubts lingering over Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin's fitness, India may have their options cut out. Keeping that in mind, here's the Predicted XI we feel Ajinkya Rahane is likely to field.
1 Rohit Sharma: India's newest opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill did everything right in their first Test match together. Rohit and Gill batted out more than 20 overs and put on 70 and 71 runs in the first and second innings respectively. Rohit in particular batted exceedingly well in both innings, and although he was out for 26 in the first, the batsman scored a fluent half-century in the second to ensure India did not stutter early in their daunting chase of 407.
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2 Shubman Gill: How good has young Shubman Gill looked in all the four innings he has batted in so far. In Gill and Rohit, India's opening combination looks set, which ruled out the possibility of either Prithvi Shaw or Mayank Agarwal to return to the fold. Given Vihari's injury, a place in the middle order is up for grabs, but neither Shaw or Agarwal look the best candidates to take the slot.
3 Cheteshwar Pujara: He may bat slow or whatever, but without Cheteshwar Pujara’s gritty half-centuries in both innings of the SCG Test, India's remarkable draw couldn't have been possible. Having not played any form of cricket in nine months, Pujara took time to get into his elements, but now that he's finally there, do not rule out the possibility of India's solid No. 3 to convert his starts and get a big one.
4 Ajinkya Rahane (Capt): India's skipper had a quiet SCG Test with scores of 22 and 4, but looked good, especially in the first innings before playing on. Rahane was the architect of India's famous win in Melbourne and the India captain will be looking to lead from the front again if his team is to register back-to-back Test series wins in Australia.
5 Wriddhiman Saha (WK): Wriddhiman Saha is the ideal option to bat in place of the injured Vihari. He has a similar batting style and can stay long in the crease. This may be one of those very rare occasions of India including both Saha and Rishabh Pant in their Playing XI. In the previous Test, Pant was guilty of dropping catches behind the wicket, but with Saha around, India don't need to worry about it with Saha keeping wicket and Pant batting at No.6
6 Rishabh Pant: Without Rishabh Pant's whirlwind knock of 97 during which he took the attack to Nathan Lyon, hitting him for three sixes, India might not have been able to save the Sydney Test. Besides, his numbers in Australia are promising. Not once has he been dismissed under 25 and Pant will be hopeful of doing what he couldn't in Sydney – scoring a century.
7 R Ashwin: Although there has been nothing from the Indian camp so far on R Ashwin's status, it is believed that the off-spinner is nursing a bad back, which makes him a doubtful starter. If he can pass the fitness test, nothing like it. Although in the worst-case scenario, if Ashwin adds to India's already-growing list of injuries, Washington Sundar could be handed a Test debut, although the likelihood of that happening isn't much.
8 Kuldeep Yadav: Injury to Ravindra Jadeja might open the door for Kuldeep Yadav's return. Having last played a Test match in January of 2019, erratic form has mostly kept Kuldeep out of India's XI, but it shouldn't be forgotten that he does have a five-wicket haul in Australia and considering he has been bowling a lot in the nets ahead of the Gabba Test, there is a big chance for India to include the chinaman bowler in their XI.
9 Shardul Thakur: Batting coach Vikram Rathour revealed that India's medical team is working closely with Bumrah – who complained of an abdominal strain – in order to get him match fit for the Brisbane Test. If Bumrah isn't ready, Shardul Thakur is likely to get the nod ahead of T Natarajan. Thakur, 29, was named in the squad as Mohammed Shami's replacement and with Bumrah out, his vast experience of playing First-Class cricket for Mumbai gives him the edge of the left-arm quick Natarajan.
10 Navdeep Saini: Navdeep Saini on his Test debut wasn't exactly the sharpest – he bowled several loose deliveries and his speed dipped. However, he did pick up four wickets, making it one of the better Test debuts by an Indian fast bowler. Although he may be just one Test old, Saini has been backed by many to do wonders for India. A bouncy Gabba surface with a tinge of green may be the ideal scenario for Saini to click.
11 Mohammed Siraj: After a dream debut in Melbourne, Siraj did not have too many wickets to show, but his economy rate of just over 2.5 in the first innings showed he has a good head on his shoulders and is capable of keeping things tight at one end. If Bumrah is out, his responsibility with the new ball increases.