After an embarrassing loss in Adelaide, India seek to put their house in order during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, which starts on December 26.
To compound their woes, the visitors will be without the services of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami for the rest of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India will have to find a way to pick up the pieces during the Boxing Day clash against a pumped-up Australia.
Australia go in as favourites for the Boxing Day Test, both on current form and their past record in Melbourne. They have beaten India eight times in 13 Tests at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
If India are seeking inspiration, they can look back at history. The visitors have registered three famous Test wins in Melbourne, doing so in 1977/78, 1980/81 and 2018-19 (their last visit down under)
India's Boxing Day debutants in Melbourne
The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne has witnessed the debuts of a few Indian cricketers over the years. Let's take a look at three of them:
#1 Hrishikesh Kanitkar (1999-2000)
The 1999-00 Boxing Day Test in Melbourne marked the debut of the talented left-handed batsman Hrishikesh Kanitkar. Before his Test debut, Kanitkar had made his mark as the batsman who hit the winning boundary off Saqlain Mushtaq in the 1998 Independence Cup final.
A Test debut presented Kanitkar an opportunity to expand his horizon as an international cricketer. However, in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, it was baptism by fire for Kanitkar, who was trapped lbw by Shane Warne for 11 in the first innings.
In the second innings, Kanitkar provided a much better account of himself, making an impressive 45 off 78 balls and occupied the crease for 102 minutes. He looked good for a half-century before he was trapped lbw again, this time by Damien Fleming.
Despite India's loss in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, Kanitkar displayed enough promise to be retained for the next game in Sydney. However, twin failures in the New Year Test - he scored 18 runs across two innings - sounded the death knell for his Test career, and Kanitkar never played another Test for India.
#2 KL Rahul (2014-15)
If ever there was a disastrous start to a Test career, this was it.
KL Rahul, chosen for the Indian team on the basis of some stupendous performances in domestic cricket, displayed a sense of false bravado that had logical-thinking experts rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
Having just gotten off the mark in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, Rahul, batting at six, skipped down the track and tried to flick Nathan Lyon but ended up presenting a simple catch to Peter Siddle at midwicket. However, lady luck shone on him, and the opportunity was grassed.
Rahul stretched his luck too far, though. The very next ball, he tried to sweep the off-spinner off the rough and only managed to top edge to backward square-leg. This time Josh Hazlewood did not make any mistake.
The debutant hadn’t learned his lesson in his next Test innings too. Sent into bat at No. 3 in the second innings of that Boxing Day Test, Rahul (1) decided to take on a short delivery from Mitchell Johnson. However, all he managed was a top edge to Shane Watson at first slip.
Despite his dual failures and shocking shot selection, Rahul was retained for the New Year Test. Pushed up the order to open the innings, the talented batsman displayed his true mettle by scoring a fluent maiden Test hundred.
Six years later, Rahul returns to the venue of his Test debut for another Boxing Day game. He will aim to resurrect his career in the longer version, which has given him middling returns of 2006 runs in 36 matches at an underwhelming average of 34.58.
#3 Mayank Agarwal (2018-19)
How quickly fortunes can change! Two years after his famous debut in the Boxing Day Test, Mayank Agarwal returns to the venue struggling to keep his defence in order.
When Agarwal entered Test cricket in 2018-19, there were plenty of apprehensions that he could turn out to be another domestic giant who would struggle Down Under. However, shunning all the naysayers, Agarwal made his much-delayed debut and stood out with a mature knock of 76 in his very first visit to the crease in the Boxing Day Test.
After losing the Perth Test by 146 runs, with Murali Vijay and KL Rahul experiencing twin failures, India turned to Agarwal as the last resort. For the debutant, this was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that he belonged to the big stage.
After a seemingly endless wait, Agarwal’s 161-ball knock laid the platform for India's 137-run triumph. He contributed 77 in the New Year Test in Sydney and was one of the key contributors in India’s historic 2-1 series triumph.
With 1000 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 52.63, it is too early to worry about Agarwal’s spot in the playing XI. However, he will need a few solid knocks to cement his place at the top of order. And what better place than the MCG to do so?
After all, this is where it all began for Agarwal in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne in 2018!Published 25 Dec 2020, 11:16 IST