Injury after injury. Issues with bubble life for multiple months. Issues with facilities. Losing key players at crucial times. India have battled them all in the ongoing Test series in Australia. Almost miraculously, the series is at 1-1 going into the decider at Gabba in Brisbane.
Everyone wrote off India after the 36 all out in Adelaide, especially with Virat Kohli returning home for the birth of his first child. But then, Melbourne happened. But the troubles continued with India losing key players through the next few days. But then, they batted out four sessions to hold on to dear life and came up with a draw in Sydney. Incredibly enough, in many phases during the final day’s play, India were in a position to even win the game.
Now, after denting the ego of the Australians with their bruised and battered bodies in a Sydney epic, India will take no prisoners in a ‘winners take all’ fourth Test, starting Friday on the liveliest of tracks in the series. Nobody expected it to get this far, but Australia need a win to regain Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Even a draw will be enough for India to retain it for another couple of years.
WHAT: India vs Australia, 4th Test
WHEN: 5am IST, January 15-19
WHERE: Gabba, Brisbane
TELECAST: Sony Network
LIVE STREAMING: Sony Liv
There are times when the human body responds differently to the adrenaline rush and the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari have given their million fans a reason to believe in their gumption that was on display in Sydney.
Jasprit Bumrah played with an abdominal strain and didn’t want to come out even though the experience was painful and Ravindra Jadeja with a broken thumb was ready to do what Malcolm Marshall did with a fractured wrist three decades back.
They battled against everybody — the racist ones in the galleries, the abusive one behind the stumps and those lethal ones with the shiny red nut that broke a few bones but could not shake the steely resolve of the Indians. The new India that Virat Kohli so raved about is now ready to battle a whole new set of adversities at a venue where Australia hasn’t lost a Test since 1988.
India Team News
There won’t be a Jadeja and Bumrah and on one of the most difficult tracks, it couldn’t have gotten more worse for India. And insult to injury is Mayank Agarwal being hit on the forearm in the nets and Ashwin battling back spasms.
It’s hard to imagine what the Indian XI will look like. Shardul Thakur could make a comeback. T Natarajan could make his debut - what a fairytale that would be. Washington Sundar could get added in the place of Ravindra Jadeja. Rishabh Pant might play as a pure batsman. We’ll know the answers only on the morning of the game.
Probable XI: The situation is such that it’s way too hard to even guess a probable XI!
Australia Team News
Australia have an injury issue too, with Will Pucovski being ruled out and Marcus Harris returning. Barring that, they’re at their full strength at their favourite venue. Their prime offspinner Nathan Lyon is set to play his 100th Test.
For Tim Paine, the series-decider couldn’t have been played at the better venue than the bouncy Woolloongabba or Gabba for fans around the world.
“We love playing here, and one of the main reasons is because that wicket. This is a good place to come and play, because I don’t have to go and look at it, I know what is going to be like," he said .
Probable XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c and wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
Head-to- Head Record – Last 5 Matches:
India 2, Australia 1, Draw 2
India are at the other end of the spectrum. Their entire first choice pace attack is out with injuries. Clearly, Australia are favourites to win the Test and the series.
But then, don’t be surprised if India manage to overcome this battle too, for they’ve shown anything is possible over the last two Tests.
“The toughness that you see has come after years of preparations. From coaching staff perspective, we keep telling them that, you can’t let doubts creeping after one bad innings (36 all out in Adelaide)," Rathour said.
Even if that doesn’t happen though, India can return home with their heads held high. This is already one of their most successful tours irrespective of the Gabba result.
Australia XI: Tim Paine (captain), David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood.
India (from): Ajinkya Rahane (capain), Rohit Sharma (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, T Natarajan, Washington Sundar.
(With PTI inputs)