No Warner, no Cummins: What will the Australia XI look like for the third Border-Gavaskar Test?
A total of five players have now withdrawn from the Australia squad ahead of the third Test against India in Indore. The Aussies are 2-0 down in the series and have a selection headache on their hands.
Their captain Pat Cummins has returned home due to a family illness, so Steve Smith will take charge of the side hoping to turn the series around. David Warner has left after sustaining a hairline fracture on his elbow, Josh Hazlewood has an Achilles injury while Ashton Agar has departed after chief selector Tony Dodemaide described Agar’s red-ball bowling as “not where he wanted it to be.” Mitch Swepson missed the second test for the birth of his child but may return in time for the third.
Only Matthew Kuhnemann, who made his Test debut in the second test, has been added to the Australia squad since the start of the tour but they will welcome the return of all-rounder Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc. Both have been with the squad, and Green is now fully fit.
He said: “I think probably having an extra week has helped a lot. [I’m] 100 per cent ready to go.”
So what changes might we see for the third Test as the Aussies look to arrest the slide towards a whitewash?
Australia will have to make at least two tweaks to the XI, with Cummins and Warner having both played in the second Test. Green will undoubtedly return to the side as he will provide batting depth and a seam option. However, he is unlikely to serve as the solitary seamer, opening the door for a return for Mitchell Starc, who will hopefully benefit from the healthy gap between the second and third Test matches.
The next question is whether Australia drop one of the three spinners or drop a batter, and whether Australia go in with two seamers, including Green, or pick a third, with Scott Boland having played the first Test and the uncapped Lance Morris a potential X-factor option.
However, with the collapse at Delhi still etched in the minds of the Australian team, further weakening the batting won’t be tempting. If they were to do so, Matt Renshaw, a concussion sub in the second Test, would be the most likely man to make way.
If Australia do go with just two spinners, Kuhnemann is likely to miss out. While he bowled solidly on debut and took two in the first innings, Todd Murphy and Nathan Lyon have both taken five-wicket hauls on the tour and are seen as the number one and two options by the Australians. The fact that Kuhnemann is a left-armer could come into consideration, but Australia were content to play two off-spinners in the first Test.
As for rejigging the line-up in the absence of Warner, Travis Head will almost certainly be promoted to open, as he was in the second innings at Delhi. He top-scored with a classy 43 off just 46 balls before the rest of his side was ripped to shreds by India’s spinners. Even before Warner was ruled out, there was a suggestion that the legendary opener could be dropped from the side, allowing for Head to move up the order.
Possible Australia XI: Head, Khawaja, Labuschagne, Smith (c), Handscomb, Renshaw, Green, Carey, Starc, Murphy, Lyon.