Australia v India – Second Test Preview: Batting headaches



It’s been a long week for the Indian cricket team. Adelaide’s capitulation on the third afternoon left the visiting nation in a conundrum, especially when their skipper Virat Kohli left Australian shores just days later. With the Boxing Day test nearly upon us, all eyes will be on the MCG on Saturday morning to determine whether India will bounce back and display true character.


Opening partnerships – do they change?


Despite winning comfortably in Adelaide, the Aussies aren’t without their own batting woes. In an ideal world, both David Warner and Will Pucovski would be available and combining up the top of the order. With the pair ruled out for the MCG test through concussion and bio-security issues, Joe Burns and Matthew Wade will most likely be given another chance.


Burns will be the batter to keep an eye on come Saturday. This time last year he was skittled early by Trent Boult on the opening morning, and has endured a torrid run of form up until his free-flowing half-century in Adelaide. The Queenslander finally regained his attacking intent, freeing up his hook shot and taking a more assertive mindset to full balls outside off. It’s always a risk when a player out of form opens up, but the burning question is whether Joe can continue his resurrection and score freely against India’s superb bowling line up.


Up the other end, Matty Wade proved he is capable of fixing any gaps Justin Langer requires him to. With Cameron Green seemingly sliding into the number six spot for a long time, Wade must prove he can adapt and become a reliable opening bat. It’s a daunting proposition, but Wade’s waning test career depends on it. He definitely has the talent, but his patience and persistence must come to the fore against Bumrah and co.


On the opposite side, India have the ability to make changes. Prithvi Shaw’s risky selection despite a lack of runs backfired horrifically, while Mayank Agarwal showed glimpses without delivering in substantial runs. India will back Agarwal to bounce back and put on a Boxing Day clinic similar to his debut effort two years ago, but Shaw won’t be so lucky. If KL Rahul isn’t already slated to replace Kohli in the middle order, he may be thrust into the opening spot ahead of Shubman Gill.


Australia backs consistency, India requires inclusions


As expected, such a one-sided end to the first test would always lead to differing reactions between sides. India would have been hellbent on claiming a 1-0 series lead before farewelling Kohli, but must now work hard to do the impossible and come back. A lot of pressure falls onto the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to carry the batting load. But they can’t be handed full responsibility; changes to the Indian side are expected.


An immediate swap may be Whriddiman Saha for Rishabh Pant. It’s understandable to see why the Indian selectors chose Saha and his security for Adelaide, but the first test highlighted the need to take risks. Pant’s bold approach to batting and unorthodox keeping is certainly a risk, but it can also pay off in spades. The last tour brought out the best in Pant, who can become one of the most dynamic keeper-batsman in test cricket if he puts his head down and produces his game-changing best. KL Rahul should definitely claim a spot in the batting order, whether it be up the top or in the middle, while Gill could be a replacement for Shaw if Rahul is handed the number four spot.


Another option may be the inclusion of Ravi Jadeja. He is so talented and multi-faceted that he should be given a go. His fielding alone is sensational, while his bowling is a vital cog that could benefit Ashwin and the pace bowlers well. But his batting may add strength to the lower order – Hanuma Vihari looms as the omission if Jadeja is chosen. From a neutral perspective, India would be crazy to leave out one of world cricket’s most talented players if he is fit and raring to go.


But Australia are looming with an unchanged side. I can’t see India amending their bowlers, who performed admirably in Adelaide. Due to injuries and strong performances, Australia will go into Boxing Day without change while India could make up to four.


All eyes on the wicket


This is it for the MCG. With a second test possible following Boxing Day due to Sydney’s COVID-19 troubles, the MCG must alleviate all talk around the flatness of the drop-in wicket by producing something different on Boxing Day. Grass and moisture is a fine line to tread when it comes to preparing test match wickets, but a couple of years of flat and dry decks calls for drastic change. Last year’s greener tinge was a start; now the MCG curators can hopefully provide a spicy deck that holds its juice for a couple of days before crumbling into a spinner’s paradise. If Adelaide and Perth are wickets to be modelled off, they show the value of benefiting the bowlers over big hundreds. If the MCG pitch follows suit, we should be in for another cracker.




Australia to go in unchanged while India make all four changes. Despite making solid changes that’ll bolster their side, India may struggle to reign in Australia twice. Without Kohli, Cummins and Hazlewood may thrive on a different MCG deck. I’m thinking Australia may win, but in a grinding fashion over five days. As long as it’s not a dull draw, the cricket public will be intrigued.



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