India search redemption

Melbourne, December 25

The bruised Indian cricket team, which had its pride badly hurt in being bowled out for 36 in the second innings of the first Test, will eye redemption in the second Test, which begins here tomorrow.

Seldom has an Indian outfit been at such difficult crossroads in recent years as it is now after the humiliation in Adelaide — and the team’s captain and premier batsman Virat Kohli having landed in India for the birth of his first child.

But there’s something cheerful to look forward to — Punjab’s 21-year-old batsman Shubman Gill will make his Test debut tomorrow, and he would want to honour the trust placed in him by the team.

Likewise, young workhorse Mohammed Siraj will step in to fill the void created by the injury to Mohammed Shami.

Humiliating 36

The manner of the capitulation in Adelaide can come back to haunt the team, and the next few days will be a test of character for them, and it’s being hoped that changes in the team will help. Two forced changes and an equal number of tactical changes were on the cards as they take on Tim Paine’s confident men, who spent Christmas without their families.

Gill’s languid and graceful batting, and the extra second he seems to have against fast bowlers, just might give the dressing room the confidence it needs. With Prithvi Shaw, who was late on the ball in both the innings in Adelaide, dropped, Gill will open with Mayank Agarwal. Agarwal would be keen to repeat his debut performance at this venue — two years ago, he had made 76 and 42 in India’s win.

Rishabh Pant, whose brings in much more intent than Wriddhiman Saha, is expected to play fearless cricket, which is the need of the hour. Amid the ruins, there lies a glimmer of hope as Ravindra Jadeja, who has recovered from his concussion and hamstring injury, will add a new dimension with his all-round abilities.

Aggressive Aussies

The Australians aren’t known to take prisoners and as skipper Tim Paine insisted, they won’t change their approach after the demolition in Adelaide. “Well, we can’t pay any attention to mental scars or whatever the thing they’re talking about,” Paine said today. “We know India is a proud cricket country, an extremely talented Test match side with lots of dangerous players.”

While Kohli’s absence is impossible to make up for, Rahane would like to show his character by promoting himself up the batting order and taking more responsibility. Cheteshwar Pujara can play his natural doggedly defensive game but head coach Ravi Shastri just might ask him to also try to keep the scoreboard ticking.

The Indian batsmen would also like to take a big stride forward while facing Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood —being rooted to the crease had rendered them sitting ducks in Adelaide. — TNS, agencies

India playing XI

Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah

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