History beckons India in Sydney as Australia struggle to strike team balance
Virat Kohli is one win away from becoming India's most successful captain overseas. (AFP Image)

It has all comes down to this. 71, the telling number heading into the fourth and final Test. That is the number of years India have been travelling to Australia, and while they have, on occasions, come close to piping the home team on their soil, a series victory has always eluded them. What all the former India captains haven’t been able to achieve, Virat Kohli can. India enter the final Test of the series with a 2-1 lead, and although they retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Kohli and Co. would be hoping to go for the kill and grab themselves a piece of history. (ALSO READ: Rahul named in India’s 13, Umesh takes Ishant’s place)

India don’t boast a formidable record in Sydney, having won just one of 11 Tests played at the venue, their last victory coming in 1978. But this time around, the odds are heavily stacked in Kohli’s favour. There are other milestones up for grabs too. One more win and Kohli can surpass Sourav Ganguly as the most successful Indian captain overseas. With 11 wins, Kohli and Ganguly have the most victories outside India. (ALSO READ: In u-turn, Ashwin named in India’s 13 for Sydney Test)

India can put the disappointment of South Africa and England by either winning or drawing the Sydney Test. Coach Ravi Shastri has time and again stressed on India desiring to be the best touring team, and what better way to get there with a series win Down Under. After going down in Perth, India outclassed Australia by 137 runs. The batting is finally beginning to click overseas and the bowling… well, no Indian pace trio has set a world record for the most number of wickets between them in a calendar year. India will yet again be without R Ashwin, but Ravindra Jadeja showed in Melbourne that he is more than capable of sharing the responsibility of India’s frontline spinner.

After a forgettable 2018, the new year presents Australia the chance for a fresh start. A win here would go a long way in lifting the drooping shoulders of Tim Paine and Co. Their bowling looks sorted with three pacers and one spinner sharing the duties. But the batting is where everyone’s concern lies. They were clueless against Jasprit Bumrah, giving him nine wickets in the match and their highest-scorer across both innings was Pat Cummins. There are quite a few selection headaches, but they need to get it right if Australia are to not start 2019 with a series defeat at home.

Date: January 3 to January 7, 2019
Time: 05:00 IST
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Weather: Bright and sunny with a maximum of 28 degree.

Team News

India

Kohli confirmed Ashwin’s unavailability during the pre-match press conference saying the offspinner hasn’t recovered in time. Yet, he has been named in the list of 13, so the belief is that a final call will be taken the morning before the Test. For the first time, Kuldeep Yadav has been named so the toss up for the only spinner could be between him and Jadeja. Sydney has traditionally aided spin so the possibility of both playing should not be ruled out. KL Rahul receives another opportunity, and with new dad Rohit Sharma back in India for the birth of his child, he should join Mayank Agarwal at the top and Hanuma Vihari can go back to batting No. 7. Surprisingly, Ishant Sharma finds no mention in the list after experiencing discomfort in his left rib cage and Umesh Yadav takes his place.

Probable XI: 1 KL Rahul, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Australia

Australia have opted to wait to finalise their Playing XI with skipper Paine saying that the team needs to give a final look at the SCG pitch. They parachuted Queensland allrounder Marnus Labuschagne and he is a strong contender to get a look in for his leg spin, replacing Mitchell Marsh. Paine mentioned that the team needs to find balance keeping in mind the players’ places for future series once Steve Smith and David Warner return. This may just indicate Aaron Finch dropping down in the middle order and Usman Khawaja opening with Marcus Harris.

Probable XI: 1 Marcus Harris, 2 Usman Khawaja, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Travis Head, 5 Aaron Finch, 6 Tim Paine, 7 Marnus Labuschagne/Peter Handscomb, 8 Nathan Lyon, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Stat Attack

– A win/draw in Sydney will give India their maiden series win in Australia. It would have taken them 71 years.

– Kohli is one win away from becoming the India captain with most overseas Test wins.

– India have won just one Test at the SCG dating back to 1978.

Quotes

We are not going to stop here. We want to win last Test match as well, if an opportunity comes our way. We don’t want to be complacent – India captain Kohli following India’s win at the MCG.

I hope they’re welcomed back. I mean everyone is entitled to their own opinion and will have a different view on it. But I think that once they’ve done their time I’m very hopeful that the Australian public will welcome those three guys back and give them a fair chance – Australia captain Paine hopes Smith and Warner are welcomed upon their return.