No overhaul; 2 forced, 1 expected change; Hanuma Vihari to stay, Prithvi Shaw to go, KL Rahul unlikely for the Boxing Day Test


Mumbai: Reports of wholesale changes to the Indian XI for the Boxing Day Test could be a little off the mark, and Mirror understands that there could be one tactical change in the starting line-up apart from the two forced alterations required due to the absence of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami. And yes, the inclusion of KL Rahul in the final XI, being widely reported as a certainty, is a long shot. He could very well miss out on the second Test, starting on December 26.

It has been reliably learnt that Shubman Gill is almost certain to make his debut in a largely expected change at the top at the expense of Prithvi Shaw. Gill will open along with Mayank Agarwal, and skipper Ajinkya Rahane will take the place of Kohli at No 4. Ravindra Jadeja and one of the pacers – T Natarajan (not officially in the Test squad) or Mohammed Siraj – should come in for Kohli and Shami respectively.

There is no indication that Wriddhiman Saha will be axed and Rishabh Pant drafted into the XI and there is also no immediate threat to the position of Hanuma Vihari. In an unlikely scenario, Rahul may be preferred and should he come in, then Jadeja may be left out. But the perception is that the left-handed all-rounder has been batting extremely well in the nets.

The reason Rahul is not being considered at this stage is not known. If there were to be a last-minute change in thinking, then the Karnataka batsman, who has been in good nick lately, will bat only in the middle order. He will not be considered for the opening slot, said a source. A lot, of course, will depend on the MCG pitch. Having reached Melbourne only on Tuesday, the team will have a look at the surface on Wednesday.

The message from Australia is that the team management will not show any signs of panic despite the team plummeting to one of the lowest totals in history in the second innings of the Adelaide Test. The thinking is that it had dominated Australia for most of the day/night game and lost it because of one bad session.


Meanwhile, it has been learnt that Rohit Sharma will join the side after the completion of his 14-day quarantine in Sydney. He will fly to Melbourne on December 28 or 29 to join his teammates who, hopefully, will be still competing in the second Test.

It is learnt that the chances of his participation in the third Test at the SCG from January 7 will depend on what mental space he is in. The team will discuss with him his state of mind as he would have been in isolation for two weeks since arriving in Sydney on December 15. Should he be considered, then he will open the innings.

It is believed that Rohit has been put up in a suite of a hotel which has two rooms. The suite has been attached to another room which has been converted into a gym and he is learnt to be working out to be in peak condition for action. He is also in touch with a set of people close to him, one of them told Mirror that he is eager to get back to action.


Shami, meanwhile, will return home. Although the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to officially provide even a single word on the nature and extent of injury to the India spearhead, it is learnt that Shami will return in a day if he has not already taken off from Australia. Shami suffered an injury to his right elbow while batting in the second innings of the Adelaide Test.


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