During the press conference on Wednesday ahead of the Sydney Test against Australia, the Indian skipper Virat Kohli had announced that R Ashwin is unfit for the game. But, two hours after that, he was included in the 13 named for the final match of the series. According to the 13-member squad announced by the team management, apart from the off-spinner, the lanky pacer Ishant Sharma has been ruled out of the match for unknown reasons and Umesh Yadav has been named as his replacement.
The chinaman Kuldeep Yadav has also been included in the squad and surprisingly, KL Rahul is also expected to make a comeback in place of Rohit Sharma, who has flown back home to attend to his wife and newborn daughter.
Ashwin’s case is quite intriguing as he was declared unfit before being included in the 13. Not only did the media manager announce that he had been ruled out, Kohli went on to express the important role the offspinner plays in the team and how much they are missing him in the playing XI since his injury – a side strain – which is similar to the one that troubled him during India’s tour of England last year.
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Kohli said, “Well, it’s unfortunate that he has had two niggles quite similar in the last couple of away tours. That’s obviously him, more than anyone else, who will be focused to correct. The physio and the trainer have spoken to him in terms of what’s required in order to get over that injury. In Test cricket, he is a vital part of this team, and we want him to be 100% fit and for a longer period so that he can contribute to us more in the Test format. He is very disappointed with the fact that he has not been able to recover in time, but the things have been laid out to him (as to) what needs to be done to get back to full fitness.”
Describing Hanuman Vihari as a part-time replacement of Ashwin, Virat said that Vihari has bowled beautifully whenever a chance is provided to him and that makes him calm about Ashwin not being able to play.
The Indian skipper elaborated, “It is obviously a disappointment for us as a team and for him personally, but if you see the way Vihari has bowled he has looked like picking up a wicket whenever he comes to bowl. He’s pitching the ball in the right areas so we are looking at him as a solid bowling option right now. Especially in this Test because he has pace on the ball, he puts in the effort and he’s economical and that’s all you need from a guy who is coming into bowl 10-15 overs in a day.”
India name 13-man squad for SCG Test: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, H Vihari, R Pant, R Jadeja, K Yadav, R Ashwin, M Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 2, 2019
It is not yet clear whether Ashwin was drafted in at the last moment in order to have his experience for the game as Ishant has also been ruled out. In fact, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Mohammed Shami had been left out as he came to the ground wearing a jacket and didn’t train at all. There were fears that Shami might be unwell, but Ishant’s absence was quite surprising.
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Rahul is set to join his good friend Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order, with Vihari going back to No. 6. Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Jadeja seem like certainties with the last spot to be contested by Ashwin, Umesh, and Kuldeep.
India squad for Sydney Test: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav