India expected to make a lot of changes in the playing XI for Melbourne Test against Australia

Saha looks set to be replaced by Rishabh Pant.

Ravi Ashwin and Virat Kohli
Ravi Ashwin and Virat Kohli. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

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For the Boxing day Test against Australia, India is expected to make a lot of changes in the playing XI after suffering a defeat against Australia by 8 wickets in the Adelaide Test. As Indian skipper Virat Kohli will be heading back to India on paternity leave, Ajinkya Rahane will take over the captaincy and KL Rahul can be included in the team to fill in the Number 4 spot.

Further, there are high chances of young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant making a comeback in the playing XI as Wriddhiman Saha failed to impress with both the gloves and bat in the first Test. Pant had done a fine job in his last Australia tour in 2018-19 and also looked in good touch during the second practice-game against Australia A where he had hammered a scintillating 103.

It is also learned that Saha could well be running the last lap of his international career as the selectors and the management is looking to groom Rishabh Pant as the preferred wicketkeeper in the purest format. Speaking about Saha and Pant, the former Indian selector MSK Prasad revealed that during his time some plans were laid out in which Pant was the first choice for the wicketkeeper in SENA countries due to his batting abilities.

MSK Prasad opines on Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha

“Look, our committee was clear that Rishabh Pant will be our first choice keeper in places like England and Australia. Only when we are looking at matches in India where you don’t need batting after number six most times, you can have a specialist keeper,” Prasad said as quoted by Hindustan Times.

“I believe Rishabh has worked on his fitness issues during the past month and looked in good touch during the pink ball practice game. So I would agree with the team management if they give Rishabh a go for the next three Tests,” he added.

Meanwhile, young Shubman Gill who had a good outing in the two practice games against Australia A can be seen as a replacement for the 21-year-old Prithvi Shaw who is in horrendous form. The batsman failed to justify his position in the team despite being provided with multiple chances by the management.

Also, Gill would be a temporary replacement for Shaw as Rohit Sharma, who will be available for the third and fourth Test, is expected to replace him in the opening slot. Mohammed Siraj is the other player in fray to enter the playing XI. But this would be a forced replacement like KL Rahul as Mohammed Shami has been ruled out of the Test series after suffering a fracture in his right-arm.

In the absence of Shami, management will have to choose between Siraj and Navdeep Saini and they are expected to go with the former owing to his decent form in the practice games.