India announce playing XI for Boxing Day showdown against Australia

New Delhi: India announced its playing XI on Tuesday for the third Test against Australia starting in Melbourne on December 26. Team India usually announce the final 12 or 13 before a match and only after the toss they reveal their playing XI but this time around, Virat Kohli’s and team management threw another surprise by announcing a sureshot playing XI a day before the Boxing Day Test.

Here’s the announcement made on Twitter:

With the four-Test series tied 1-1, much is riding on the Boxing Day showdown at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where up to 90,000 fans are expected, and India can’t afford another top-order flop. 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 play their part alongside the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. They have paid the price with debutant Mayank Agarwal expected to open the batting with Hanuma Vihari, who is set to be bumped up the order.

Experienced No.6 Rohit Sharma was declared fit and resumes his place in the side after missing the Perth Test. But ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who also missed that 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.

India name Playing XI for 3rd Test: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah

Last time India and Australia played in a Boxing Day Test, it was a lifeless MCG pitch and the match ended in a draw.

Virat Kohli, however, was optimistic that there was enough on the pitch to ensure a result.

“Seeing the pitch now, it has much more grass than it had last time,” Kohli told reporters before the playing XI was announced.

“I hope that it’s a lively pitch. I hope that it does as much as it did in the first two games because as a side, you know you’re always in for a result that way.

“The surface, what I saw yesterday looked pretty dry underneath. There’s good coverage of grass which should keep the surface intact.

“I think it should have enough for the bowlers to be interested on all days of the Test match and hopefully it’s a much more lively wicket than the last time we played here.”