Shubman Gill, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant get ready for Boxing Day Test; non-performing batters set to be benched

Mohammed Siraj is also in the fray to enter the playing XI
Last Updated 21 December 2020, 06:42 IST

Veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha and young opener Prithvi Shaw are unlikely to be picked for the remaining Tests in Australia as India look to ring in wholesale changes after the batting debacle in Adelaide.

It is understood that young Shubman Gill, after a couple of impressive knocks in the warm-up games, is seen as a replacement for Shaw as senior star Rohit Sharma will not be available until the third Test match in Sydney.

With Saha's batting not providing any confidence to the dressing room, the team management will certainly look at Rishabh Pant, who had scored a hundred Down Under during his previous tour. His keeping might also not be a factor on pitches with firm and even bounce.

KL Rahul and Mohammed Siraj are the two others in the fray to enter the playing XI and those would be forced changes due to the absence of skipper Virat Kohli and senior pacer Mohammad Shami, who is out of the tour with a fractured wrist.

The 36-year-old Saha could well be running the last lap of his international career as young and feisty Pant is set to be preferred by the team management over the next three Test matches and if he does well, against England too.

As far as Saha is concerned, his inept batting in SENA countries hasn't gone unnoticed (he doesn't have a half century there), but former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad said that during his regime, certain plans were chalked out on the Saha-Pant conundrum.

"Look, our committee was clear that Rishabh Pant will be our first choice keeper in places like England and Australia. Only when we are looking at matches in India where you don't need batting after number six most times, you can have a specialist keeper," Prasad told PTI on Sunday.

"I believe Rishabh has worked on his fitness issues during the past month and looked in good touch during the pink ball practice game. So, I would agree with the team management if they give Rishabh a go for the next three Tests," said Prasad.

Back to the drawing board for Shaw

As far as Shaw is concerned, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong for the 21-year-old Mumbaikar, whose technique, temperament and overall attitude towards the game has raised some serious questions in the corridors of Indian cricket.

If sources in the know are to be believed, despite his slump in form, Shaw was preferred over an in-form Gill because he had played in the last series in New Zealand and needed to be given at least one more game.

Since Shaw has wasted his chances, it's time for him to cool his heels and go back to the drawing board.

Not only have teams sorted out his faulty technique, his fielding has been way below par. From the time of the IPL, he has either been slow in the outfield or missed sitters like the one offered by Marnus Labuschagne, which cost his team an extra 30 runs.

Bring Vihari up the order?

The Indian team management could mull bringing Hanuma Vihari up the order in the absence of Virat Kohli and Prasad, who has seen Vihari from close quarters, feels that it won't be a bad idea to play him at No. 5.

"Vihari has a very sound technique and temperament and he can serve this Test team for a long time," Prasad said. "In the absence of Virat, it would be a great opportunity for him and KL (Rahul) to stand up and be counted."

"I would prefer Vihari batting at No. 4 or 5 in the next few Tests and face the challenge," the former chairman of selectors said. "He is a gutsy boy and I have confidence that he will do well if given the challenge. KL can be a good No. 6 in this series."

Siraj in the mix

He has endured a tragedy during the ongoing tour having lost his father but young Mohammed Siraj's four five-wicket hauls in first-class cricket is finally going to be rewarded as he gets ready to make his Test debut at the MCG in place of Shami.

The choice was between him and Navdeep Saini, but Siraj's better show during the two practice games has tilted the scales in his favour.

(Published 20 December 2020, 09:21 IST)

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