India begins their first warm-up fixture today in a tour game against Australia A.
The game takes place simultaneously as the second T20, leaving the players divided between formats.
With the two squads in action and players rested, the tour game gives the India something to look out for.
Here are a few points to look at in the three-day fixture:
The Third Seamer:
India has a strong duo of pacers with Shami and Bumrah.
The two are the attack leaders and will have their work cut-out in the absence of Ishant Sharma.
Ishant Sharma’s absence may have a more considerable impact on India than Virat Kohli’s after the first test.
Ishant Sharma has been in great form over the years and was a part of some famous overseas wins.
His height and accurate bowling and his ability to bowl long spell help him create immense pressure on the batsmen.
With Ishant Sharma out of the series, India will have to look for a pacer who can help maintain the pressure created by Bumrah and Shami.
The pacer will have to share the workload and ensure the pressure isn’t released.
India has Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj, and Navdeep Saini, and the third seamer will be a toss-up between the three bowlers.
Pujara, Rahane and Vihari in action:
The pandemic has affected test specialists like Vihari and Pujara greatly.
In domestic cricket’s absence and lack of bids in IPL, both players have been out of the game for a considerable time.
The two players also hoped to play county cricket, but the pandemic prevented the stint from happening.
The two players were on tour last time as well, and Pujara won the man of the series award as he came up with some fantastic knocks.
Ajinkya Rahane is another test specialist who has been lucky to play the IPL.
Despite playing the IPL, Rahane may feel some rustiness after not playing the long format in months.
The three players will finally be back in action, and the tour games are crucial for them as they look to regain their touch.
Pant or Saha:
Wriddhiman Saha returns after injuring both his hamstring, while Rishabh Pant has been left out of the limited-overs squad.
Both players will have a lot to prove as Saha has been troubled with injuries, and a lot of questions have been asked regarding Pant’s batting.
While Pant’s batting has come under the scanner on numerous occasions, it must be remembered that he has centuries in Australia and England.
Saha, on the other hand, has faced a lot of injuries over the last few years, and the wicket-keeping gloves have been rotated between the two players in recent Tests.
While both are talented keepers and capable batsmen, selecting the keeper may be severe and likely come down to the day’s conditions.
Ashwin Returns as Kuldeep Yadav joins the Test group:
Kuldeep Yadav was recently seen in the ODI series.
Yadav has been inconsistent for his IPL side but has managed to retain his spot despite losing confidence.
On Yadav’s last visit to Australia, he combined well with Jadeja in Sydney and took a five-for match.
He knows how to use the bounce in Australia well, and with Jadeja uncertain after his concussion and hamstring injury, Yadav may get the nod.
Yadav has never played a test as the lone spinner, and India will have to think about which spinner plays if they go with just one.
Ashwin, like the other Test specialist, returns to the long format after a significant gap.
However, unlike the others, Ashwin played in most of his side’s IPL games and was a crucial bowler throughout the tournament.
He has had fitness issues during the IPL and India’s previous overseas tours and has also been India’s first choice as the lone spinner.
The tour game is essential for Ashwin, as it allows him to test his fitness in the long format.
It remains essential for Kuldeep and a good performance and may show the team that Kuldeep can be used as the lone spinner in the side.
With Pujara at three, Kohli at four, and Rahane at five, the middle-order looks settled for the first test.
The other spots may come up as a spot of debate, with Vihari likely to return to his number six spot.
While Vihari at number six seems likely, he has also opened in Australia in the past, leaving more doors open to debate about the batting line-up.
Mayank Agarwal has done a fine job, opening in Australia last time, and may retain his spot at the top despite an average New Zealand tour.
The other opener could likely be Prithvi Shaw, who has also had an average visit to New Zealand and confidence damaging IPL.
Despite the form and record, the two may get the first crack at the top.
KL Rahul and Shubman Gill are the other members with equal possibilities to open the batting.
Although the format is different, KL Rahul has been in the perfect form of late and has every chance of carrying that form into the longer format.
In case he doesn’t open the batting, Rahul and Gill may still make the eleven once Kohli leaves.
The opening debate will still be considerable, as there are four potential players and Vihari with an outside chance of opening the batting.
The tour game may present a better picture of who opens, but with Rohit Sharma’s possible return, the decision gets more challenging.
After the first two tests, Rohit Sharma may be given the nod as the opener due to his experience and ability to play the short ball.