As the D-day draws closer to the Boxing Day Test at MCG, we can take a look at the impending scenario.

India played 13 tests here and won 3 times.  All the three wins have special connotations. 

The first win came in the 1977-78 season when Bhagwat Chandrasekar ran through a second string team of the Aussies as the core team of players were lured away by the Media Mogul, Kerry Packer. And India by 222 runs and their first win Down Under. 

 And the second win came in the 1980-81 series when Kapil’s Devils sprang a surprise victory by 59 runs as the Aussies were bundled out for just 83 runs. . And with this win India squared the series with the scoreline reading 1-1.

And the last outing in 2018-19, India won by 137 runs thanks to the Man of the Match, J. Bumrah’s incisive bowling with a scalp of 9 wickets in the match and C. Pujara’s century helped India to win the Test series by 2-1 for the first time in Australia.

Now, after a drubbing at Adelaide with the indian team folding up it’s ever lowest test innings score, it’s going to be a tough task  to come back.  Deep anguish in the minds of our players are palpable. You can’t run them down completely as Aussies are best in Pink ball games. It will be a different ball game at MCG as it will be a Day game played with red balls. 

Kohli’s absence will be felt not only as a Captain but also as a batsman. His aggression on the field is one of the key factors for success.  He is a run machine in Tests. So, it’s imperative that the stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane take the initiative to lead from the front sans aggression.  And K.L. Rahul is likely to play to fill the void created by Kohli and though wicket keeping in Tests may not be his forte, it’s an additional factor for his selection. 

 And we are yet to find a suitable player of the  likes of Viru, the flamboyant opener.  It emerges from the insiders that Prithivi Shaw,  who lacks the basic tenets of foot work as was pointed by both Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting, and vulnerable in the bouncy tracks, may make way for Shubman Gill. 

 It is learnt that the team think tank  wants the Young Rishab Pant to don the gloves as Saha’s poor batting and keeping is not helping the team’s cause.  As wicket keepers can’t just restrict their flamboyance to those acrobatic takes and chirpy words; dash and panache should ripple their bats too.   It’s a thankless job and snide remarks bound to arise when they grease the catches. And Pant scored centuries both in England and Australia recently and even in this tour’s warm up match, he hit a century.  

The team will also be missing the services of the experienced bowler of Mohamed Shami, who took 31 wickets in the previous two tours Down Under, who is out of the reckoning as he has fractured his arm .  The youngsters Siraj or Saini may make the cut in the final XI.  And it’s also believed that the energetic all rounder  Ravindra Jadeja will play in the XI and the axe may fall on  Vihari.

So, in the final analysis the team composition may be :

 Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Pujara, K.L. Rahul, A. Rahane,R. Pant,  Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin,  Umesh Yadav, J. Bumrah, Siraj or Saini.

And now all the eyes are on A. Rahane, who already captained in the absence of Kohli . He’s a calm, cool headed guy unperturbed by the sledging remarks and he doesn’t also indulge in that art.  He’s already led India in tests in the absence of Kohli first  in 2017 at Dharamshala in the series decider  and brought victory for India against Aussies and the series win by  2-1 . 

Speaking about  Rahane, Rahul Dravid said, “ that having successfully completed a cycle of touring the world, Rahane must be experiencing the beautiful feeling that he belongs at the top level. ‘Boss, I belong here.’ He [Rahane] has developed his attacking game. He now knows it deep down that, ‘Boss, if I work hard, if I practice, I can succeed at this level.’ It is a very good feeling to have that gut feeling. 

Rahane in an interview a few years back said : “I think as a leader, as a captain, it’s important to back your instincts, whatever you feel. Yes, it is important to take advice from your colleagues, but in the end what your instincts tell you, you should back that. Whenever I am on the field, I always try and think: If I am the captain, what should be my field? What will I do in certain situations, certain conditions? I always think that way, so that whenever opportunity comes I am ready for that. I make it tough on myself at practice so i am comfortable during the game.”  “if there are positive things in your mind, they will happen,” Rahane says. He really meant it when he attacked Mitchell Johnson 6  seasons ago here at MCG and scored a century to save the test for India. All of us are keeping fingers crossed as we want Rahane to repeat this performance and make India flying high in the test arena.

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