IND vs AUS: Time for India to set the record straight at Sydney

Updated: Jan 02, 2019, 16:10 IST | R Kaushik | Sydney

With India leading the Test series 2-1 against Aus, Virat's men are in prime position to round off visitors' first series win Down Under at spin-friendly SCG

India captain Virat Kohli (second from left) and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane celebrate the win over Australia on Day Five of the third Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Pic/AFP
India captain Virat Kohli (second from left) and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane celebrate the win over Australia on Day Five of the third Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Pic/AFP

Of all the venues in Australia, the Sydney Cricket Ground has historically been the most responsive to spin, so it is a massive surprise that India have won just one of 11 previous Tests here.

That victory, earned by Bishan Singh Bedi's side against Bobby Simpson's team 41 years back with the World Series Cricket stars missing, was fashioned by the spin triumvirate of the skipper, BS Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna.

Between them, the stalwarts picked up 16 wickets, sandwiching a consistent batting display; riding collectively on the sync between the two departments, India won by an innings and four runs to square the five-match series 2-2, though Australia did seal a tight decider in Adelaide by 47 runs.

Unlucky India
Since that tour, India have lost four and drawn as many matches at the SCG, sometimes thwarted by the weather, at other times undermined by remarkably poor officiating and occasionally overrun by a formidable home unit.

Now is India's chance to set the record straight. Holding an unprecedented 2-1 advantage and a massive psychological edge against a team not sure of where its next runs are going to come from, Virat Kohli's men are in prime position to round off India's first series victory Down Under. From the outer, this might appear to be a topsy-turvy series, but India are undoubtedly the stronger side.

While there has been some uncertainty over the batting line-up and positions in the batting order, the bowling has been top-notch, metronomic in its accuracy and relentless in its aggression.

Revolving around the admirable Jasprit Bumrah, it has now to put in one massive final effort to herald the beginning of a prolonged break from Test cricket. India will need to make at least one change with Rohit Sharma having temporarily flown back home on paternity leave.

Common sense would dictate that, especially with Australia also expecting the pitch to turn and therefore adding Marnus Labuschagne to their squad, R Ashwin returns to the eleven once he proves he has recovered fully from the abdominal strain that kept him out of the second and third Tests. That would give Kohli the luxury of five specialist bowlers, among them two spinners ranked in the ICC's top-10, without unduly compromising on the batting as was the case in Perth when India's 8, 9, 10 and Jack could have been knocked over with a feather.

Probable combinations
Other options include bringing in Hardik Pandya, or pushing G Hanuma Vihari back to No. 6 and opening with one of KL Rahul or Murali Vijay. The Indians haven't yet had a look at the surface; today's practice session should help them make up their minds, in case they already haven't.

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