India have drafted in Rohit Sharma into the playing XI for the opening Test against Australia in Adelaide – for his specialist batting capabilities, ahead of the all-rounder Hanuma Vihari. India were forced into making the decision with the regular option at the position – Hardik Pandya – out injured. The rest of the playing XI for the first Test of the four-match series was already assured after the 12-man squad was announced on Wednesday (December 5).
Speaking on the change, skipper Virat Kohli said at the toss: “Rohit Sharma will bat at six, he can bat well with tail, has the shots on these kind of wickets, he’s good with the short ball and can attack the bowlers.” He last played on the tour of South Africa and had a miserable time at it with just 78 runs in four innings. He was then not included in India’s tour of England and at home against West Indies. However, he is seemingly back in the mix on the back of limited-overs’ form, and his ability to play horizontal bat shots well.
At the toss, India opted to bat under severe heat with temperatures expected to reach 39 degrees. Kohli further said at the toss, “It looks like a nice hard wicket with a nice covering of grass on it. Runs on the board will be always handy in any condition.”
“Evey tour is an opportunity, it’s always a difficult challenge in Australia. Taking nothing for granted, nothing lightly. We are looking forward to a challenging series, to measure ourselves against one of the best sides in the world.” India have never won a Test series in Australia with just five matches won in 44 played.
Australia had already announced their playing XI on the eve of the Test with Marcus Harris making his debut while Mitchell Marsh was dropped in favour of Peter Handscomb in the middle order.
At the toss, captain Tim Paine added that Australia would have preferred to bat as well. “Some damp spots and we will look to make the best of that. Nice to start in Adelaide, we will look to do our best. We think 3 pacers and Nathan (Lyon) will do the job, they are pretty fresh and we have a all-round attack. We expect the batsmen to stand-up, we have good players who have done well domestically over the past five-six years,” he said.
Australia XI: Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Tim Paine(w/c), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon
India XI: Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant(w), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami