Rahane’s India able to rise

Sydney, January 6

Having touched nadir and zenith in a span of 10 days, Ajinkya Rahane’s India will look to start afresh against Australia in the third Test, hoping that Rohit Sharma’s presence will add a new dimension to what promises to be an enthralling contest.

The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), despite being witness to several extraordinary performances by Indian batsmen over the years, has not exactly been a happy hunting ground for them, with five defeats.

Shubman Gill bats in the nets in Sydney on Wednesday. PTI

The lone Indian win at the SCG was achieved a good 42 years ago.

If Rahane’s men change the script and go 2-1 up to ensure the retention of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, it would be a fine achievement, especially without key first-choice players.

Seldom has an Australian batting unit, that too with a player of Steve Smith’s calibre, looked so circumspect and literally intimidated by an Indian bowling unit, which isn’t even operating at full-strength. Pacer Navdeep Saini will make his debut tomorrow, replacing Umesh Yadav, who went home following an injury.

The pressure on the hosts is evident from the fact that Australia are literally pushing a 70 per cent fit David Warner into the middle to combat fire with fire, even as his statements make it clear that he is not comfortable with the idea.

“He is energetic, professional, who could make an instant impact and fill guys with confidence,” home captain Tim Paine’s words on the eve of the match indicated their desperation.

Individual show

The Sydney track has traditionally favoured the batsmen as Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Sachin Tendulkar and even Pujara and Rishabh Pant, who got centuries here during the last tour, will vouch.

If Sharma and Shubman Gill can give the team a good start, the under-pressure Pujara will be much more relieved while playing his own defensive game.

Rahane, after one of his more copybook hundreds constructed in adversity during the last game, will enter the arena with more confidence while facing the Australian quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

KL Rahul’s injury has given Hanuma Vihari one more chance despite his returns being as underwhelming as Mayank Agarwal’s, who has been forced to make way for Sharma.

Ashwin factor

Australia’s wobbly batting will again be put to test by Ashwin on a track that has traditionally helped spinners. With 10 wickets and new-found confidence, Ashwin has won his battles against the opposition’s key players such as Smith and Marnus Labuschagne. Jasprit Bumrah, only 16 Tests old, will be leading the pace attack and is expected to show the way with his bagful of tricks. Mohammed Siraj or Saini, whoever shares the new ball with Bumrah will have his task cut out in order to match the standard set by the likes of Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. — PTI

Rohit’s adventures

For Team India, a lot would depend on the performance of Rohit Sharma. PTI/file

After a strange personal build-up, Rohit Sharma enters the squad. For him, the last couple of months have seen much off-field drama. It started with him missing the initial part of the tour due to a hamstring injury suffered while playing in the IPL. He then travelled to Australia and was quarantined for two weeks in a Sydney apartment. And when he finally joined his teammates in Melbourne, controversy erupted after he and four teammates allegedly broke Covid protocol by dining in an indoor environment, a potential bio-security breach.

But the relaxed Sharma has mastered the art of being unfazed, which was evident from his intense net session today when he was comfortably facing the first-team bowlers like Ravichandran Ashwin. His mere presence has added a spring to the strides of the team. The youngsters in this current set-up swear by him, the reason he replaced Cheteshwar Pujara as vice-captain.

Indians in Sydney

  • 12 Tests India have played in Sydney, losing five and winning one
  • 1978 The year India recorded their only win in Sydney. The Australian team, weakened by many top players opting to play in Kerry Packer’s World Series, won the series 3-2
  • 1986  An Indian batsman scored a 100 in Sydney for the first time — in fact, K Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath scored 100s in that Test match. Australia lost six wickets in 77 overs for 119 runs in the second innings and saved the match
  • 3 100s scored by Tendulkar at Sydney — 2 in draws (1992, 2004), one in a loss (2008)
  • 3 100s scored by Laxman at Sydney — 2 in losses (2000, 2008), one in a draw (2004)

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