Veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is set to miss his third Test in a row as India name their 13-member squad for the fourth and last Test match against Australia, starting on January 3 in Sydney. In another surprise, lead bowler Ishant Sharma is also set to miss the SCG Test due to a rib-cage injury, which is still being assessed by the team management.
Ashwin, who missed the second and third Tests because of an abdominal strain he sustained during the first Test win in Adelaide, trained on Tuesday but is yet to attain full fitness. Wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav could also get a chance to play his first Test on Australian soil if India choose to go with two specialist spinners.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said a decision on Ashwin will be taken on the morning of the Test which will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
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
A decision on R Ashwin's availability will be taken on the morning of the Test #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/4Lji2FExU8
"It's unfortunate that he's had two niggles that are quite similar in the last two away tours," said the skipper Virat Kohli ahead of the Sydney Test.
"He's very important for sure. In Test cricket, he's a vital part of this team and we wanted him to be 100 per cent fit for a longer period so that he can come back to us in the Test format. He is very disappointed that he's not able to recover in time."
However, with the SCG pitch expected to be a turner, India are hoping for Ashwin's quick recovery before the final match of the four-Test series.
Ashwin's uncertainty gives an opportunity to leg-spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who is most likely to retain his place in the playing XI.
Meanwhile, India will also miss the services of Rohit Sharma in the Sydney Test after the batsman returned home following the birth of his first child. KL Rahul who was dropped for the Melbourne Test is all set to open the innings with his Karnataka teammate Mayank Agarwal.
Rohit left Melbourne shortly after India's 137-run victory in the third test, where the middle-order batsman made 63 not out in the first innings, as the tourists took a 2-1 series lead and retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
The 31-year-old will return to Sydney on January 8 for the start of a three-match ODI series that follows the final Test.