After nearly a month-long stay in Australia, India’s Test specialists will get first taste of competitive cricket when they face a strong Australia A team in a three-day warm-up at the Drummoyne Oval here from Sunday. This is the first of the two warm-ups; the other three-day game begins on December 11. Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, and Mohammed Siraj are part of only the Test squad and have not played any game, in any format, up until now during their stay in Australia.India Test team’s vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will most likely lead the side.
The Australia A side includes the home side’s Test players like skipper Tim Paine, Joe Burns, Travis Head and James Pattinson. The game will especially be crucial for Pujara who hasn’t played any competitive cricket since the Ranji Trophy final against Bengal in March.Pujara was India’s star during the last tour in 2018-19, scoring three centuries to help India beat Australia for the first time in a Test series in Australia. He scored 521 runs in that series.The No.3 batsman will again play an important role, especially with skipper Virat Kohli set to return home after the first Test to attend the birth of his first child.
Wicketkeeper-batsmen Pant and Saha could face off during this match for a spot in the Test squad. Pant, who has been excluded from the Indian limited overs teams, apparently due to fitness issues, had scored an unbeaten 159 in the fourth and final at the Sydney Cricket Ground during the previous tour in 2018-19. Among other players looking to perform will be Prithvi Shaw, who endured a horrible back-end of the Indian Premier League tournament. After starting the tournament well, Shaw aggregated just 30 in the last seven IPL games for Delhi Capitals. His highest in those seven matches was 10 as he got three ducks and three single digit scores.
R Ashwin, who was ignored for the white-ball series despite a decent showing in IPL, will also look to get into rhythm. Ashwin had taken 13 wickets in 15 IPL matches. However, this is going to be a different challenge as he will be expected to bowl longer spells. For the Australians, the main area of interest will be their opening combination. With seasoned opener David Warner injured and doubtful for the first Test, the Australian team may be forced to play uncapped youngster Will Pucovski and Joe Burns, who has opened with Warner in the past, at the Adelaide Oval during the first Test from December 17. Burns and Pucovski will be on trial as an opening combination during the three-day warm-up, the former having made it clear a few days ago that this will be a chance for the two to get their bearings.