Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar never got onto the plane. Mohammed Shami almost had his forearm broken by Mitchell Starc in the first Test. Umesh Yadav limped off with a calf injury at the MCG. KL Rahul was ruled out of the series shortly with a wrist injury before the third Test without even being part of the XI. Ravindra Jadeja joined the list with a thumb fracture in the third Test. Three other players, Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal strain) and the SCG heroes, Hanuma Vihari (hamstring) and R Ashwin (back) who battled through the pain to pull off the draw, await their fate. Mayank Agarwal too added to India's injury woe with an injury at practice nets in Brisbane. That brings the list to four players, barring the first two, who are out of contention for the final Test against Australia at the Gabba and four others remain in doubt, from the present 18-member list for Tests.
If all eight are ruled out, one thing for sure, the management, probably for the first time in the series, will have no headache over the selection matter for the next Test. But will India have an XI to field at the Gabba?
Who will replace Bumrah?
during Australia's second innings on day 3 at the SCG and even left the field at one point for medical attention. Although there is no official statement over his absence in the final Test with the physio making every method possible to get the pacer match-ready, if ruled out, the pace attack will be further depleted. Mohammed Siraj, who is only two Test old, will lead the pack with Navdeep Saini as the second option, and T Natarajan likely to make a debut at the Gabba.
Shardul Thakur, who has the most first-class experience from the remaining pacers (including Bumrah), is also an available option. However, Thakur might be considered as a replacement for Jadeja, which would imply a four-man pace attack.
Who will replace Ashwin, Jadeja?
According to his wife Prithi, Ashwin batted with a backache throughout those 128 deliveries in the fourth innings of the SCG Test. If ruled out, India will look at Kuldeep Yadav, who has a one Test experience in Australia, at the SCG in 2019 where he had taken a five-wicket haul. Washington Sundar is another option, who stayed back to help the Indian Test side after his participation in the T20I series in December. He has played 12 first-class games where he picked 30 wickets at 26.93 and went wicketless in his only first-class game on tour in Sydney. However, his last Ranji trophy game was in 2017.
If the two are selected, the Shardul might be given a go in Bumrah's absence.
Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant both in the XI?
Vihari's injury will give India a rare chance to feature both Saha and Pant with the latter as a batting specialist and the senior cricketer as the wicketkeeper. Pant was once again criticised for his poor glovework in the last two games although he overshadowed the dropped chances with his counterattacking 97 at the SCG.