Mohammed Siraj may just have played two Test in his career so far, but just weeks after making his Test debut - an impressive one at that - the Hyderabad pacer finds himself in a very unlikely position of being the leader of the Indian pace attack as the injury-hit visitors travel to the Gabba in hope of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Ravindra Jadeja was ruled out of the 4th Test at Brisbane, starting January 15 with a fractured thumb, and in all likelihood, Hanuma Vihari, who battled hamstring tear to pull off an incredible Indian draw at the SCG, will also not be available for the final Test. But, the biggest blow for India has come in the form of Jasorit Bumrah most likely to be ruled out of the Test with an abdominal strain.
India lost Mohammed Shami in the first Test to a forearm fracture and his replacement, Umesh Yadav, limped off the field during the 2nd Test. Shami’s injury made way for Siraj’s debut and Umesh’s for Navdeep Saini’s. Now, India need to replace Bumrah and the most likely candidate will be Shardul Thakur, who does have a Test under his belt, but unfortunately did not get to bowl after picking up an early injury during his debut match against the West Indies.
That makes Siraj the most experienced bowlers at the Test arena among what is left of fit Indian pacers. India traveled to Australia with a large contingent which included three net bowlers. The BCCI had originally announced four net bowlers, but Rajasthan’s Kamlesh Nagarkoti did not travel with the team and Bengal’s Ishan Porel was flown back home with a hamstring injury. That left India with two net bowlers in Karthik Tyagi and T Natarajan. While Tyagi played in one of the two tour matches ahead of the Test series, Natarajan, who was part of India’s white-ball squad made his ODI and T20I debuts and was even talked about for a possible Test debut in the third Test and was officially named in the Test squad, but India eventually went with the more experienced Saini.
Now, India’s predicament is such that they are struggling to find a fit XI. R Ashwin, after the SCG Test, had jokingly said that going to Brisbane coach Ravi Shastri may as well line-up a fit XI from the squad to play them at Brisbane, but that now seems to be becoming a reality.
In all likelihood, Siraj and Saini will have Thakur for the company at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane which has traditionally been a pacer-friendly wicket. In the last ten Tests played at the Gabba, pacers have accounted for 223 wickets, and spinners a mere 66. India will have the headache of replacing Jadeja and potentially Vihari and in all likelihood, Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha may play together, with Pant as the specialist batsman. Mayank Agarwal too is looked at as an option in the middle-order, but he too is has been injured during a net session and has been taken for scans. R Ashwin has a back problem but will most likely be fit for the fourth Test. If India opt to got for a second spinner role Kuldeep Yadav could be looked at, else it will be T Natarajan making his Test debut as well.