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India vs Australia (test)

CONCLUDED

AUS vs IND Cricket Scorecard (test)

2nd Test test, Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Melbourne, 4th Day, 2nd Session

Australia

1st INN

195/10

(72.3) RR 2.69

2nd INN

200 /10

(103.1) 1.94

Australia Tim Paine (C) (W)
India beat Australia by 8 wickets
India Ajinkya Rahane (C)

India

1st INN

326/10

(115.1) RR 2.83

2nd INN

70 /2

(15.5) RR 4.42

India vs Australia: India Reap Rewards of Acing Selection Challenge Ahead of Melbourne Test

Three days into the second Test, it's safe to say that India have aced one of the toughest selection challenges and perhaps even identified a combination that can work for them in the long run.

India vs Australia: India Reap Rewards of Acing Selection Challenge Ahead of Melbourne Test

Selecting the playing XI is one of the toughest jobs for a team management, especially when the side is struggling for balance and has options that are neither definite starters nor tellingly out of place. The Indian team faced one such selection challenge ahead of the second Test against Australia at the MCG. They had just been dismissed for 36, their lowest ever Test score, in Adelaide. Their regular captain had to return to India for personal reasons. Their prime pacer Mohammed Shami was injured. Another prime pacer Ishant Sharma was not even in the squad due to injury.

Three days into the second Test, it's safe to say that India have aced one of the toughest selection challenges. And in the process, perhaps even identified a combination that can work for them in the long run.

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A recap into the selection changes first. India left an out of form and confidence Prithvi Shaw for Shubman Gill. Wriddhiman Saha gave way for Rishabh Pant. A fit-again Ravindra Jadeja came in for Kohli and Mohammed Siraj replaced the injured Shami.

None of these were straightforward calls because one could have always argued the other way, given the options in the squad.

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Shaw had obvious technical flaws which were exposed in the first game, and public opinion was heavily swaying towards uncapped Gill.

Perhaps on another day, Shaw might have got that extra game to prove himself. It was in the same country that MS Dhoni had backed a young and out-of-form Virat Kohli early in the decade despite two poor Tests. What Kohli has done since that third Test is there for everyone to see. So backing Shaw, who was picked for the first Test purely for his brilliant run in Tests until then, wouldn't have been as out of place as social media perhaps believes.

Dropping him after just one game might have even been seen as an admission of error in Adelaide.

Yet, India went with Gill who although untested at Tests, was a special player in the first-class circuit. Gill responded with an attractive 45 off 65, giving a glimpse of his elegant strokeplay in the process. Unlike Shaw, Gill had more luck. He was dropped twice, once on 4. A number of deliveries that Indian batsmen nicked in Adelaide went past the bat in Melbourne. But overall, Selection call No. 1 - check.

Rishabh Pant vs Wriddhiman Saha too became a much debated topic through the series, even before the first Test. Saha had been stunning with the gloves in the only day-night Test India had played prior to Adelaide. But Pant had made a century in the pink-ball warm-up game before the Test series. India went with glovework over batting form in Adelaide but the debate returned ahead of Melbourne.

As with the Shaw vs Gill call, a change might have seemed like an admission of error but India didn't mind that. Pant didn't exactly set the stage on fire with the bat but made a handy 29 off 40, his mini-attack on Pat Cummins giving India some momentum in the middle. As was perhaps expected, there was a drop catch and poor glovework here and there, but the middle order runs are as crucial for India especially after the 36 all out. Selection call No. 2 - check (unless Pant drops a few more costly ones on Day 4!).

Siraj for Shami was perhaps the easiest of them all, made easier by Navdeep Saini's poor performance in the limited-overs series. Siraj was a man high on confidence and it showed in his bowling. The pacer picked two in the first innings and has one currently in the second, making Selection call No. 3 a success too.

And now to perhaps the trickiest of them all - the fifth bowler in Jadeja over a specialist batsman in KL Rahul. Without Kohli, and with shadows of 36 all out lurking, India might have been tempted to play the extra batsman. Especially since the bowling was fairly strong as evident from their performance in Adelaide.

In overseas conditions, Jadeja has often been seen as a competition to R Ashwin. But with Ashwin doing well in Adelaide, India might have been justified in sticking to the bowling combination and strengthening the batting.

India, though, trusted Jadeja's improvement as a batsman and thus took a huge step towards identifying their most ideal 2-in-1 player. Jadeja repaid the faith with a half-century with the bat, and three crucial strikes with the ball. Not to mention a well held catch off Matthew Wade in the first innings - something that was missing in Adelaide.

Jadeja's development as batsman allows India to play a 2 spin + 3 pace attack even overseas, which will only make them more flexible. The success of selection No. 4 is perhaps the biggest takeaways from this game.

Had India listened to public pressure, they could have still got the combination by picking Rahul over Hanuma Vihari. Rahul is the 'bigger' name for his exploits in white-ball cricket and past success in Tests. Vihari is hardly in the public spotlight for he neither plays for India in Blues nor in the IPL. Yet, India resisted such temptations. Each call has worked well so far.

Now, if they can avoid a repeat of the one-hour Adelaide madness, they might have much easier calls to make in the rest of the series.



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1 New Zealand 3198 118
2 Australia 3028 116
3 India 3085 114
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2 India 6102 117
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 4344 111
5 South Africa 3345 108
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