India will be without two of their first XI players in Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami in the second Test against Australia in Melbourne on December 26. While Kohli is going on paternity leave for the birth of his first child, Shami is out with a fractured arm after being hit by a Pat Cummins' delivery.
So, who should replace Kohli and Shami for the Melbourne Test?
With Shaw failing in the Adelaide Test, Shubman Gill is expected to replace him as the opener for the Melbourne Test and would team up with Mayank Agarwal to open the innings. If that happens, it means KL Rahul will take up Kohli's spot at No 4. Rahul, who didn't have a good run in Tests recently as the opener, could find No 4 a better position to score runs rather than as the opener.
However, the team management could open with KXIP openers Rahul and Agarwal, and gives Gill, who impressed with his knocks in the tour games, the spot owned by Kohli.
There is another possible scenario that Gill could open with Agarwal, and Hanuman Vihari could come to bat at No 4, with Ravindra Jadeja being drafted in the XI to take up Vihari's No 6 spot, and Rahul to sit down again.
Best possible scenario
With Rahul's recent overseas Test performance nothing to boast about, it could make sense to have Vihari to partner Agarwal at the top, with Gill coming in as No 4 to anchor the innings. Vihari has opened before, and that too in the last tour of Australia, and could hold off the Australian bowlers for long. Gill, who will be making his debut in Melbourne, if he plays, can then take his time to settle his nerve at No 4, and play his natural game, and anchor the innings. In that case, Jadeja could take up Vihari's spot.
Navdeep Saini is the best possible replacement for Shami but he faces competition from Mohammed Siraj. But both are yet to play Tests, and on the basis of skills, Saini wins this battle to replace Shami.
However, India still has T Natarajan and Shardul Thakur as back-up net bowlers in Australia after the limited-overs series ended, and the team management may tempt to give Natarajan the Test debut after the Sunrisers Hyderabad player impressed in the T20I series against Australia that India won 2-1.
Being a left-hander, Natarajan also gives variety to the bowling attack and can attack Australia's two best players in Steve Smith, and Marnus Labuschagne, with his incoming delivery from over the wicket. Hence, Natarajan could make his debut across all formats in the same tour Down Under.
Cover photo courtesy: Criczone