Opener Mayank Agarwal, who came into this series with an average of over 50 as India’s settled opener, has been dropped in favour of Rohit Sharma for the third Test. The Indian team will feature two changes from squad that won the 2nd Test in Melbourne, with Navdeep Saini coming in to make his debut in place of an injured Umesh Yadav, who was earlier ruled out of the series.
Sharma’s last Test match was back in November, 2019 and he is yet to open a Test innings outside India.
Agarwal, who now has an average of 47.85 in 13 Tests as an opener, paid the price for his string of low scores beginning from the tour of New Zealand in February, 2020. In his last six innings, Agarwal has reached double figures once.
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“We are really excited to have him (Sharma) back in the team, especially with his experience at the highest level, which matters a lot. He is batting really well at the nets. He had good seven to eight sessions. He came to Melbourne and started his practice straightaway,” Rahane said. “In the last couple of series, he has been batting as an opener. So, you will definitely see Rohit at the top.”
However, the fact that Sharma hasn’t played any competitive cricket since the IPL final in November, 2020, will be exploited by the Australian quicks, feels Glenn McGrath.
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“He will be a player whom the Australian will be keen to pick up early as he hasn’t had too many games recently. He will keen to make an instant impact as he has got only two matches now. I will be keen to see how he goes. The player of his experience and stature, I always thought he should do better in Tests,” said McGrath.
Navdeep Saini will be the second fast bowler after Mohammed Siraj to debut for India this series after injuries to Mohammed Shami and Yadav. Counting Jasprit Bumrah’s 16 matches, the Indian pace attack at the SCG will have a combined experience of only 17 Tests.
“When things are going well, everything is fine. It’s when the pressure comes that you miss that experience. It will be interesting to see how Siraj and Saini stand up if Australian batsmen can apply pressure,” McGrath said.
“The SCG might be a little slower, little more batsman friendly than Melbourne. Finding that right length, top of the off stump line, having that control will be key. The new ball will always do a little bit. One shouldn’t get carried away by the bounce by bowling too short.”