Australia vs India 2018-19: The 13-man squad for Sydney Test reflects India’s muddled mindset
The Indian team management have announced their 13-man squad for the final Test of the 4-match series against Australia to be played from January 3 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The squad is certainly a contentious one due to a few surprising exclusions and inclusions.
Ishant Sharma's exclusion, though surprising, is actually a precautionary measure since he faced discomfort in his left rib-cage. It is nonetheless a great loss to India as he has performed admirably in the three Tests so far. He has taken 11 wickets in the series and has given skipper Virat Kohli control over the proceedings by holding up one end without leaking runs.
However, the choice of his replacement in the squad is a contentious one. They have preferred to include Umesh Yadav instead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the squad. If India decide to play three seamers, then the erratic Yadav will be the third seamer in the eleven.
His performance in the only test he has played in the series at Perth was abysmal to say the least. In the 37 overs he bowled, he could take only two wickets and was very expensive as he leaked runs at an economy rate of 3.75.
If India had included Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the side, then it would have given them the option of even going with three seamers and two spinners, because of his batting skills. But with Umesh in side, if they decide to have a five-bowler policy, that will seriously weaken India's batting.
Another surprising inclusion in the 13-man squad is Ravichandran Ashwin. He was declared ‘unfit’ for the Sydney test just a day ago by the Indian team management after assessing his fitness. So, what changed in just one day?
The team management have to careful not to rush an under the weather Ashwin in a repeat of the blunder they had committed at Southampton that had cost India the fourth Test against England last year.
If India decide to play six batsmen, then KL Rahul should make the cut. This could force Hanuma Vihari to go back to number six and the former opening the batting in the company of his fellow Karnataka teammate Mayank Agarwal.
They may even consider playing Rahul in the middle order and open with Vihari again if there is a smattering of grass on the pitch and India bats first. Preferring Rahul over Murali Vijay is not so much of a contentious decision as neither has performed well this series to merit a selection over the other.
However, one hopes that the contentious decisions regarding the exclusion of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and inclusions of Ashwin and Umesh do not come back to haunt India in their quest for a maiden Test series triumph on Australian soil.
India's 13-man squad for the fourth Test: Hanuma Vihari, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), KL Rahul, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami