Australia vs India 3rd Test Preview: Dogfight for ascendency at Sydney amid bubbling tension
The controversy surrounding the breach of the biosecure bubble by five Indian players and India's resistance to undergo hard quarantine at Brisbane have added spice to the test series.
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Bubble breach and quarantine controversy
Controversy erupted after a post on Twitter showed Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini in a restaurant in Melbourne. With the players allowed to dine in open spaces but not inside the four walls of a restaurant, it seemed to be a case of a breach of the biosecure bubble protocol by the five Indian players.
As a result, the five of them were kept in precautionary isolation. There was also news of the players having to travel separately to Sydney. After all the members of the Indian and Australian teams and the support staff returned negative Covid-19 tests, the teams traveled together to Sydney.
In the midst of all that, there have been various comments from the Australian camp, including former wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, Matthew Wade and Nathan Lyon in opposition to India's resistance to play the fourth and the last test match of the series at Brisbane. With teams travelling to Brisbane from Sydney, they will have to undergo hard quarantine and will only be allowed out of their hotel rooms, or for that matter their floor, for no purpose other than training or the match.
The two controversies have added a bit of spice to the four-match series which was going on quite smoothly till now.
Warner and Pucovski likely at the top
David Warner, despite not being 100 percent fit, is set to return for the Sydney test. The left-handed opening batsman is expected to provide the impetus to the Australian innings which has been lacking till now. Warner has already given a statement in the media that he will try to remain positive even if that comes with added risk.
With Joe Burns dropped from the squad, Matthew Wade is set to be pushed down the order.
This will clear room for Will Pucovski to make his debut. The youngster was in line to play the first test match of the series but was ruled out after copping a blow on his head in a side game and had to go through concussion protocols. He has now been cleared by the medicos and is expected to partner David Warner at the top of the order.
Wade to replace Head in middle order
Matthew Wade has been the second-highest run-scorer for Australia in the series behind Marnus Labuschagne and is expected to retain his spot despite the return of David Warner and the inclusion of Will Pucovski. There is no option for him but to replace Travis Head in the middle order, who got starts but has failed to convert them.
Rohit Sharma set for maiden appearance as Test opener in Oz
Rohit Sharma has an average of 92.67 while opening the batting. Although the sample size is very small, with just six innings, it is close to impossible to bench the Indian vice-captain with him having piled on scores of 176, 127, 14, 212, 6 and 21 against South Africa and Bangladesh since being promoted to the top of the order.
It makes matters easier for the Indian team management that Mayank Agrawal has looked uncomfortable with this technique and Sharma is likely to replace Agarwal at the top of the order. He will partner Shubman Gill, who impressed on debut at the MCG.
Thakur frontrunner for 3rd pacer's spot
Injuries to Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav has left Team India with no option but to pick one between Navdeep Saini, T Natarajan and Shardul Thakur. With Thakur having the most experience in first-class cricket among the three, his ability to swing the ball first up and provide some crucial runs lower down the order, he is likely to win the three-way race.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
Australia - David Warner, Will Pucovski, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c & wk), Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood
India - Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
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