India drop Rahul and Vijay, Australia recall Mitchell Marsh for Boxing Day Test
India dropped both openers while Australia recalled allrounder Mitchell Marsh in place of struggling Peter Handscomb for the Boxing Day Test.
Murali Vijay and KL Rahul scored just 95 runs between them in eight innings across the opening two Tests in Adelaide and Perth, failing to complement the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Debutant Mayank Agarwal is expected to open the batting with Hanuma Vihari, who in his two Test so far has played in lower-middle order.
Rohit Sharma was declared fit and resumes his place in the side after missing the Perth Test.
But Ravichandran Ashwin, who also missed the last game, has failed to recover from an abdominal strain, with left-arm finger-spinner Ravindra Jadeja brought in as part of a four-man attack.
Skipper Kohli, who had some testy exchanges in Perth with Australian counterpart Tim Paine, insisted the defeat there was in the past and his team was starting with a new slate in Melbourne.
“As a team, whether you’re 2-0 up or 1-0 down, what has happened in the past has no significance to what is going to happen in the next Test,” he said before the team was announced.
“So the key is to stay in the moment, stay in the present. We just need to play consistently good cricket and not get too excited or taken aback from situations in the match.”
Kohli, who was criticized for failing to acknowledge the Perth crowd when he was controversially given out, also said he would not be looking for confrontations with Paine in Melbourne.
“Both teams are passionate and desperate to win. Obviously, things happen on the field. But as long as the line isn’t crossed,” he said.
“I’m sure Tim and myself understand what happened and we don’t want to do something unnecessary. We want to lead our teams well and play good cricket that the public wants to see.”
Despite winning to level the series in Perth, Australia opted for change by recalling Marsh, whose part-time seamers will help relieve pressure on the home side’s pace attack on a pitch that is not expected to offer as much for the bowlers as Adelaide or Perth.
Handscomb took the ax after scoring just 34, 14, 7 and 13 across four innings.
“I’m sure Pete would be upset. I think he’s had conversations with the selectors that there are a few things they would like him to work on and Pete is open to that,” Paine said.
He added that he did not believe dropping a player from a winning XI would impact Australia’s momentum.
“No I don’t think so, we did it last year during the Ashes as well. The majority of this decision has been based around it’s a long series, we’ve played on a lot of hot days and our bowlers have had a big workload,” he said.
“We believe Mitch can come in and do a really good job with the bat and obviously he’ll give great support to our bowlers.”
Playing XI for MCG Test – Boxing Day Test
Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah