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Axar, Raina likely to get a go in Sydney Test

Source: PTI
January 01, 2015 19:41 IST
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Axar Patel (right) with Virat Kohli

Axar Patel (right) with Virat Kohli. Photograph: BCCI

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's retirement from Test cricket has left the Indian think-tank fretting over the ideal playing combination that will take on Australia in the fourth and final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground starting next Tuesday.

While Wriddhiman Saha's selection by virtue of being the back-up keeper is a certainty, the team management might be mulling on a couple of changes in their line-up with a final shot at redemption for the team’s first assignment of 2015.

The Sydney Cricket Ground has proved to be helpful for the slow bowlers with the track offering some turn by the end of the third day. Spinners come in handy during the third and the fourth innings of the Test matches in Sydney.

This might just bring in rookie left-arm spinner Axar Patel into the equation if India plan to go with two specialist spinners instead of the lone spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin.

Patel was flown in as a replacement for an injured Ravindra Jadeja currently undergoing rehabilitation for his left-shoulder injury.

India's Test captain Virat Kohli has had a good look at the 20-year-old Gujarat spinner as he had played most of his 9 ODIs under Kohli's captaincy.

Less than three weeks short of his 21st birthday, Axar, who has 38 wickets from 11 domestic first-class games, will be looking to be accurate in order to stem the flow of runs and will also be aiming at getting a few wickets to bolster his chances for the World Cup.

In case Axar makes it to the playing XI, then one among Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav will be dropped as it looks unlikely that India will deviate from their four-bowler strategy.

The batting line-up also has some cause of concern with Shikhar Dhawan's prolonged bad patch (167 runs from 6 innings @27.83). There are a couple of possibilities emerging out in case Dhawan is dropped from the playing XI.

Specialist opener KL Rahul will be sent up at his usual position alongside Murali Vijay. While outgoing skipper Dhoni was sympathetic in his assessment that young Rahul shouldn't be judged on the basis of a single Test match, his shot selection in his debut Test had left a lot to be desired.

In case Rahul also gets the boot, then there might be a chance that Rahane, who has had experience of opening the batting for Mumbai at the Ranji level is assigned for the job with both Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina being inducted into the middle-order.

If one among Dhawan or Rahul manages to retain their place, then the choice will be between Rohit and Raina.

Rohit still has not justified his talent at the Test level in overseas conditions.

But Raina's non-inclusion in the middle-order during the first three Test matches may be an indication that he is still not in the scheme of things as no one knows his ability to cope in with short stuff that will be dished out by Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris.

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