New Delhi: All eyes would be on Team India as it gets ready to face off against Australia in the crucial third Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) from Wednesday (December 26). With the four-match series level at 1-1, and with questions aplenty about the playing combination that the team management opted for in Perth, captain Virat Kohli and the team management will have to walk the tightrope in deciding the playing combination for the upcoming clash.
With injuries galore in the Indian side, there could be a chance that the bench strength is tested. Cricket experts and former players have suggested a few changes to ensure the visiting side reclaims the lead and regains bragging rights.
Following is what India's playing XI could possibly look like come Wednesday:
Mayank Agarwal: Flown to Australia after an injured Prithvi Shaw was ruled out of the entire series, Agarwal could get a serious look in. Also helping the case for a slot in the playing XI would be that the current opener in KL Rahul has been extremely ordinary.
Murali Vijay: He could get a look in ahead of Rahul to partner Agarwal even though he has not been among the runs. Experience is on his side and that could earn him yet another chance at the top.
Cheteshwar Pujara: He has rescued the Indian team on many occasions - including in the first two Tests on trying conditions. Called 'The New Wall' and 'Mr Dependable Volume 2', Pujara has cemented his place in the playing XI.
Virat Kohli: The Indian captain has been a pillar of defiance against the Aussies and may once again have to bat his team in the face of challenging conditions.
Ajinkya Rahane: The Indian vice-captain has been in good form against Australia so far and will be looking to make his presence felt in the Melbourne Test under pressure. Rahane enjoys the ability to deliver quality performances under pressure and will be expected to set the stage with a quality knock.
Rishabh Pant: Pant enjoys the ability to smash the ball to all parts of the ground and can put pressure on the bowling attack with his strokeplay and aggressive gameplay. He is also quite handy with the gloves which makes him a valuable addition to the side.
Ravindra Jadeja: The all-rounder has not featured for India so far in the series, but is more than capable of making his presence felt whenever deemed necessary. Jadeja enjoys a quality record against Australia and will be looking to ensure similar performances in Melbourne.
Hanuma Vihari/Hardik Pandya: It could be a toss-up between young Vihari and Pandya who is making his comeback from injury. While Vihari was extremely impressive in the second Test with the bat and ball, Pandya delivered a quality performance in the Ranji Trophy clash between Mumbai and Baroda, which earned him a spot in the squad for the Melbourne Test.
Ishant Sharma: The experienced pace-bowler played a vital role in India's victory in the 1st Test in Adelaide and is more than capable of bowling accurately at a consistent rate, which puts pressure on the opposition batting lineup.
Mohammad Shami: The 28-year-old can trouble the batsmen with some quality pace and bounce which makes him one to watch out for.
Jasprit Bumrah: Jasprit Bumrah has been a vital performer for India picking wickets at regular intervals with his toe-crushing yorkers and variations in line and length. Bumrah will be looking to strike early against Australia in the Melbourne Test.
Hosts Australia have named an unchanged squad for the remaining two Tests, after recording a 146-run win against India in the second Test which took place at Perth.
Here is the Australian squad for the upcoming Tests:
Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (VC), Mitch Marsh (VC), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc.