Australia vs India 2018-19: Tim Paine relieved at R Ashwin's likely absence in Sydney Test
What's the story?
Having failed a fitness test on the eve of the match, Ravichandran Ashwin is likely to miss the upcoming final Test at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground. The probable absence of India's premier off-spinner, on what is reckoned to be a turning track, has delighted Australian skipper Tim Paine and his fellow batsmen.
When asked about Ashwin's likely absence in SCG Test, Paine affirmed, "That's good news. I saw him bowl yesterday and he was batting in Melbourne, so I'm surprised he's not playing. I think conditions here would have suited him really nicely. Normally it spins quite a bit and with his height, he would've been a handful, so I think some of our batters will be pretty happy to hear that news."
He added, "But we know they've got some other spinners in their squad, Kuldeep is younger but got some serious talent and Jadeja did the job for them in Melbourne."
The SCG has historically been the most spin-friendly among all venues in Australia. Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill picked 117 wickets between them at this venue. Anil Kumble scalped 20 victims from three matches at Sydney.
The heart of the matter
With as many as five left-handers set to feature in Australia's lineup at Sydney, Ashwin's presence could have bolstered India's attack. However, the off-spinner has not recovered sufficiently from the abdomen injury that he had picked up during the first Test at Adelaide.
Having missed the second and third Tests at Perth and Melbourne respectively, Ashwin's hiatus could be extended further as he could not clear his fitness test on Wednesday. However, the veteran off-spinner has still found a place in India's 13-member squad for the SCG Test. According to the team management, a call on his availability will be taken on Thursday morning.
Although his record at SCG is below-par - five wickets from two Tests at 80.80 - Ashwin could still have been a threat due to his much-improved pivot in recent times. It remains to be seen if the team management takes a risk and plays him in what will be India's last high-profile Test match for the next six months.
The fourth Test between Australia and India will begin on Thursday at 1030 Sydney time (0500 IST).