MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — India could make up to five changes for the second cricket test against Australia beginning Saturday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground while the home side is expected to go unchanged.
India captain Virat Kohli has returned to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child and fast bowler Mohammed Shami has a broken arm.
Opener K.L. Rahul and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant could be in line for recalls, with Prithvi Shaw and Wriddhiman Saha in danger of being dropped.
India heads to the MCG after posting its lowest total in test history — 36 in the second innings — in an eight-wicket loss in the day-night match at the Adelaide Oval which ended inside three days.
Áustralia captain Tim Paine said Friday he doesn’t expect his side to let up in attempting to take a 2-0 lead in the four-test series.
“The moment we take our foot off the pedal, and think we’re going all right performances can slip,” Paine said. “But we’ve been fantastic in how we’ve prepared for this game. We can’t pay any attention to mental scars or whatever people are talking about.
“India is a proud cricket country, they’re an extremely talented side. We know some of the players they’re talking about coming in . . . if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”
The match would normally draw a crowd of up to 80,000, but just 30,000 people will be allowed into the MCG. Despite the strange build-up due to COVID-19 restrictions, Paine is happy just to be playing the Boxing Day test at the MCG.
“Seeing the MCG sometimes with 30,000 in it you’re a bit disappointed when you turn up,” he said. “To have 30,000 fans there is certainly better than not playing the Boxing Day test at the MCG, so everyone’s excited.”
Joe Burns will again partner Matthew Wade at the top of the order after Burns’ unbeaten 51 in the first test.
On Thursday, Cricket Australia officials met to determine whether the MCG might hold two tests in a row if a new COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney prevents the Sydney Cricket Ground match from beginning played beginning Jan. 7.
The CA board decided wait further to give the SCG its “best chance” to host the third test. The board also want to stick with Brisbane hosting the fourth test beginning Jan. 15, just four days after the SCG match is scheduled to end.
But should the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney result in the SCG test being untenable, CA’s preferred contingency is playing the third test at the MCG.
“The drop in new community transmissions in NSW have provided cause for optimism,” CA’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said in a statement. “However if the situation in Sydney deteriorates, we have strong contingency plans in place.”
CA said it was working with the Queensland government to secure travel exemptions for players, officials and broadcasters to move from Sydney to Brisbane following the SCG match, Hockley said.
Regardless of where the third match is play, Australia coach Justin Langer said he was optimistic opener David Warner will be fit.
The 34-year-old Warner has been recovering from a groin injury sustained in the one-day international series against India.
“He batted very well (on Wednesday) in the nets, he’s moving well,” Langer said of the 24-test veteran. “He’s enthusiastic as ever. He’s got so much energy and passion for the game and he’ll be doing everything possible to get out onto the ground.
“He’s having a bit of trouble running at full speed. We’ll just monitor him and fingers crossed he’ll be back.”
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