After a historic victory at Melbourne, India stands on the cusp of history as they take on Australia in the fourth Test match at Sydney beginning on January 3.
India looks a much more settled side than the hosts who have a lot of pressing issues to address in terms of team selection.
The Australians have drafted in batting all-rounder Marnus Labuschagne to the squad for the Sydney Test and the 24-year-old is likely to slot straight into the starting XI. The pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) has been touted to assist the spinners and Labuschagne's leg spin can come in handy for the Aussies.
Aaron Finch's form at the top of the order has been poor and the Victorian might make way for the all-rounder. In case the Aussie team management decides to persist with Finch, all-rounder Mitchell Marsh might get the axe.
For India, Rohit Sharma has flown back to Mumbai to be with his wife who gave birth to a baby girl and hence he will miss out on the fourth Test. Ravi Ashwin is expected to take his place in the team - if fit - thus giving India a fifth bowling option.
A case could also be made for the inclusion of Hardik Pandya in the team but on form, Ashwin adds as much with the bat and more with the ball than the Baroda-lad. The Sydney pitch is expected to take turn so India will go in with two specialist spinners.
in the absence of Ishant Sharma from the 13-member squad announced by BCCI, Virat Kohli will likely opt for either Kuldeep Yadav or Umesh Yadav to partner Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, both of whom have done so well in 2018.
India name 13-man squad for SCG Test: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, H Vihari, R Pant, R Jadeja, K Yadav, R Ashwin, M Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav— BCCI (@BCCI) January 2, 2019
A decision on R Ashwin's availability will be taken on the morning of the Test #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/4Lji2FExU8
There is rain forecast for the match which can render the pitch less effective for the spinners forcing the visitors to stick with just the one specialist spinner. India also has the added spinning option of part-time off-break bowler, Hanuma Vihari who is expected to be the makeshift opener once again in Sydney.
Probable playing XIs
Australia: Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (WK) (C), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
India: Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and Conditions
The Australian camp has been reportedly unhappy with the pitches dished out in the Test series thus far and Australian coach Justin Langer has asked the curators at the SCG not to prepare a "flat" track. The former left-hand batsman wants competition between bat and ball, which has not been the case thus far at the venue in the Sheffield Shield and in India's tour game.
Word coming in from Australia is that the pitch that will be dished out will assist the spinners and as the game goes on, there will plenty of turn on offer. In that case, India will have to be wary of Nathan Lyon who has been the visitors' nemesis-in-chief.
Rain is expected to play a big part in this Test match with showers being forecast on each day except day 2 of the Test match which is Friday, January 4. If it does rain, spinners might not get as much help from the track as expected. The teams will have to take this into consideration while picking their respective playing XIs.