Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21, 2nd Test preview: Depleted India look to bounce back
India is coming off an eight-wicket defeat in the opening day-night Test, in Adelaide. India is the defending champion of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, having won during its previous visit, in 2018-19. India would be without skipper Virat Kohli, who is on paternity leave.
Still reeling from the embarrassing eight-wicket defeat in the opening day-night Test in Adelaide, India will have to brush aside its rustiness, as it takes on Australia in the Boxing Day Test, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), from Saturday. India is defending the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, that it won during the previous visit, in 2018-19.
Although India managed to develop a series of strong performance in the first Test's opening innings, it failed miserably in the second, in all departments. Nonetheless, India does have the squad to pull things through, since it is the same team that won in the last visit. Meanwhile, we present the match preview for this all-important encounter.
Current form: As for the current state, India has been shaky. Since last year, India did manage to do well in the Windies, along with the three series at home. However, following all of it, it has been shaky overseas, coming off a 0-2 loss in New Zealand, while it is off to a dubious start in Australia. Meanwhile, Australia is continuing on the same winning from its home series against New Zealand last year.
Team composition: As far as the teams are concerned, there is a notable difference. India has a heavy batting squad. However, when it came to its batting, it was not really impressive in the first, followed by a howler in the second innings. Its bowling was undoubtedly expected to fire and should continue with the same in Melbourne. It has been a smooth ride for Australia, while it possesses a balanced team in all departments.
Injury concerns: For India, Rohit Sharma's unavailability is still a concern, while injury to their prominent seamer, Mohammed Shami, has made things worrisome. Nonetheless, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is expected to be back after he missed the first Test, due to concussion. Australia would miss the services of prolific opener David Warner and pacer Sean Abbott, who are recovering from a groin injury and calf injury, respectively.
Head-to-head: Considering the head-on clashes for both, Australia has traditionally been ahead. In 99 matches, Australia has won 43, while India has won 28. In Australia, both have clashed on 49 occasions, with Australia winning 30 and India winning seven. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, both have played each other on 13 occasions, with Australia winning eight and India winning three.
Weather and pitch report: As for the weather in Melbourne, it would be somewhat peculiar throughout the five days, with temperature likely to be around 18-33 degrees, along with chances of rain on Sunday (Day 2). Meanwhile, the track here is an even one, while it is expected to assist batsman as the days progress. It is generally seam-friendly, with hardly anything for the spinners.
India (confirmed): Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.
Australia: Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Tim Paine (c & wk), Travis Head, Cameron Green, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
Batsmen: Labuschagne, Pujara, Rahane- Labuschagne is expected to give the right start, along with Pujara in the top-order, while Rahane can consolidate in the middle.
Wicketkeepers: Wade, Paine (c)- Both Wade and Paine have been in a decent form. Going by the current scenario, Wade is likely to dominate with the bat, while Paine can shine in both departments. The latter's reliable form makes him the skipper for this side.
All-rounder: Ashwin- The department consists the sole like of Ashwin, who unexpectedly fired in Adelaide. Although MCG is not so spin-friendly, his unusual knack of scalping wickets on any track gives him the edge.
Bowlers: Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Bumrah, Umesh- The bowling department is sure to consist mostly of pacers, while all the five are almost guaranteed to come up with success, as the MCG pitch traditionally suits the seamers.
Players to watch out
Rahul: Coming in for Kohli, Rahul has been the man in form, of late. Although most of his form has been commendable in the limited-overs, it would be interesting to see how he fares in the longest format, as fans would expect him to get going. Furthermore, he can bat at any position in the side.
Smith: The former Australian skipper surprisingly failed to get going in Adelaide. With the MCG pitch known to assist batsmen, Smith would be the man to watch out for Australia, as he desperately needs to give stability to the top-order in Warner's absence.
Siraj: With Shami unavailable, he is the only specialised seamer available for India. While he was decent in the warm-ups, it would be interesting to see if he can come up with a similar performance in Melbourne.
Date and day: December 26, 2020 (Saturday)
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground
Time: 5:00 AM IST
Where to watch (TV): Sony Six, Ten 1 and Ten 3 (Also available in HD, along with regional languages)
Where to watch (Online): Sony LIV