Plenty has happened between both teams Australia and India as they get ready to face each other in the fourth and final Test of the series at Sydney. For the Aussies, playing on this ground is going to be an emotional one as it was in this very ground that Phillip Hughes was hit by a bouncer and died two days later, sending shock waves across the cricketing fraternity.
India will go into the final Test with a new aggressive skipper at the helm – the flamboyant Virat Kohli. The sudden, dramatic and mysterious decision of Mahendra Singh Dhoni not only to give up the captaincy but also quit from Tests has stunned many fans in India and left many questions unanswered. Only time will tell about the exact reason behind Dhoni’s decision.
Coming back to the action, the Aussies have the Border-Gavaskar trophy in their bag thanks to their 2-0 lead in the series. They would certainly want to clinch the Test series 3-0. The Aussies are a confident lot, and predictably they have retained the same side that played at Melbourne barring Mitchell Johnson. Johnson who was engaged in a verbal duel with Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli will miss the final Test of the series with a hamstring injury. Mitchell Starc has replaced him in the line-up.
India on the other hand, especially the team management comprising Team Director Ravi Shastri, captain Virat Kohli and coach Duncan Fletcher, have plenty of issues to resolve while finalizing the playing eleven.
India’s biggest problem is at the top of the batting order, opener Shikhar Dhawan’s lean run is worrisome for the team. So too is the vulnerability of Cheteshwar Pujara, who seems to be crumbling under the weight of expectations batting at number 3. For a player widely tipped to succeed the great Rahul Dravid, Pujara has been a huge letdown. K L Rahul made a horrendous Test debut at Melbourne and his shot selection left a lot to be desired. But Rahul has been picked as a reserve opener, so will the team management give him the opening slot and drop the woefully out of form Dhawan remains to be seen? Suresh Raina too might get to play the Sydney Test as reports say he had a long stint at the nets ahead of the Sydney Test. The bright spot for Team India in this series has been the form of the trio – Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s sudden retirement has opened the doors for other wicket-keepers to stake their claim in the Tests squad. Currently with Team India in Australia, Bengal wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha will keep wickets in Sydney. MSD’s exit from Tests now means that the likes of Parthiv Patel, and Dinesh Karthik get the much-needed window of opportunity to press their claims for the keeper’s slot in the Test matches for India.
The pitch in Sydney does take turn. So it will be interesting as to what combination in bowling Virat Kohli would take on to the field. Will he play with Ashwin only or will he be tempted to bring in leggie Karn Sharma? Interestingly, this will be the third captaincy combination in the on-going four-Test match series – Kohli and Michael Clarke in Adelaide; Smith and Dhoni in Brisbane and Melbourne; and Smith and Kohli in Sydney. And the spotlight at Sydney will definitely be on the two young skippers Steve Smith and Virat Kohli. Kohli was the stand-in skipper at Adelaide but now he comes to Sydney as full-time skipper and fans and critics are waiting to see how the aggressive Kohli, with his brand of captaincy, takes Indian cricket forward after the exit of ‘captain cool’ Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
So an exciting Test match is clearly on the cards.