MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — India has dropped both its opening batsman among three changes for the third test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground beginning Wednesday.
K.L. Rahul and Murali Vijay as well as paceman Umesh Yadav were those replaced in the lineup. Offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin was again ruled out, having not fully recovered from the abdominal strain that sidelined him in the second Perth test.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja comes into the XI after missing the first two tests, batsman Rohit Sharma has been recalled and Mayank Agarwal is set to make his debut.
Australia, meanwhile, recalled allrounder Mitch Marsh, dropping struggling batsman Peter Handscomb.
"I'm sure Pete would be upset. I think he's had conversations with the selectors that there's a few things he needs to work on and Pete is open to that," captain Tim Paine said Tuesday.
Rahul and Murali, averaging 12.00 and 12.25 for the series, respectively, had been under pressure to hold their spots with the series tied 1-1.
Agarwal appears likely to open alongside Hanuma Vihari, who batted at No. 6 in Perth but is considered well suited to moving up the order.
Last time the sides met in a Boxing Day fixture, a lifeless MCG pitch ensured there was no prospect of anything other than a draw.
Kohli was optimistic enough work had been done on the pitch to ensure a result.
"Seeing the pitch now, it has much more grass than it had last time," Kohli said Tuesday. "I hope that it's a lively pitch. I hope that it does as much as it did in the first two games because as a side, you know you're always in for a result that way."
Paine said Handscomb would come into consideration for the fourth test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, traditionally the most spin-friendly of the Australian pitches.
"Going to Sydney, a place where it normally spins, I think people come back into the fold pretty quickly because he's renowned as probably our best player of spin," Paine said. "I know he'll be doing everything he can to get back into the side."
After losing the first test in Adelaide, Australia fought back in Perth to level the series.
But Paine, who sparred verbally with counterpart Kohli in Perth, played down suggestions his side had all the momentum.
"We don't feel like we're on top of them. We feel like we're getting better every test," he said.
"Certainly when you've got an inexperienced playing group and you get a big win like we did in Perth against the No. 1 team in the world, guys are going to grow in confidence a little bit and come to Melbourne feeling a bit better than we did when we went to Perth."
Australia: Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
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