Australia vs India 2018-19: Who could replace Rohit Sharma in the fourth Test?
Team India bid adieu to 2018 by winning the boxing day Test quite convincingly at the iconic MCG. They now lead the four-match series 2-1. It is also the first time that any Asian team touring Australia is leading the series by such margin. Virat Kohli led side put in an all-around effort at Melbourne which ensured a comprehensive victory to the Indian team.
India went into the match with a new opening combination in the hope of fixing their fragile top-order. Hanuma Vihari and debutant Mayank Agarwal were entrusted with the responsibility to open the innings for India in the all-important boxing day Test. The inexperienced opening duo was successful in the task as they managed to shield the middle order from facing the new ball.
Though Vihari scored very few runs in both the innings he saw through the first few testing overs calmly without getting out which helped the following batsmen by ensuring them with a luxury of not needing to face the new ball. This provided Virat Kohli and first innings centurion Pujara with a substantial platform to build the innings which they did with perfect precision.
Mayank Agarwal had a memorable debut at the MCG as he scored a fifty in his first international innings and was the teams top scorer in the second innings. Cheteswar Pujara continued his good form this series as he notched up yet another match-winning century. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma also played crucial knocks to help India score in excess of 400 in the first innings which proved to be the decisive factor in the end.
On the bowling front, Man of the Match, Jasprit Bumrah produced one of the finest performances by an Indian fast bowler in Australia and he was ably supported by Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, and Ravindra Jadeja in both the innings.
After successfully managing to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, India will look to put the final nail in the coffin by winning the last Test at SCG and win a Test series in Australia for the first time in their storied history. Even if India draw the final Test they will end up winning the series.
Coming to their record at SCG, India has played 11 matches at the SCG and has won only a solitary match way back in 1978. They lost five of their matches to Australia and managed to draw five matches. The last match between the two teams at this ground in 2015 ended as a draw.
With Rohit Sharma unavailable for the final Test, India will be forced to make changes to its winning combination from the previous match. There are chances of altering the opening combination as Vihari might be transferred back into the middle order to take up the vacant spot left due to the absence of Rohit Sharma.
This might open up a chance for either KL Rahul or Vijay to make a comeback into the XI. If team management wants to stick with the same opening combination of Vihari and Mayank then they will have no other option than to slot in either Hardik Pandya or Ashwin in the lower middle order. Ashwin's inclusion will depend on his fitness and the conditions on offer at the SCG.
Since the pitch in Sydney is expected to assist spinners India might think of a possibility of playing both the spinners in the match. The rest of the team combination will in all likelihood remain unaltered and India might only make one forced change due to the absence of Rohit Sharma.
Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin seem like most probable options to replace Rohit Sharma in the XI for the final Test. KL Rahul might have an outside chance if Virat Kohli decides to stick to the six batsmen theory, else one of the all-rounders will be given the chance ahead of Rahul.
If the conditions at SCG assist pace then Hardik Pandya might play to provide support to an already strong pace unit. But if the conditions are spin friendly then Ashwin might be slotted in to make exploit favourable conditions at SCG.