Sydney: India reversed an earlier decision about the availability of Ravichandran Ashwin for the fourth and final Test against Australia and named the off-spinner in their 13-man match squad on Wednesday.
With a 2-1 lead, India need only draw the Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground to secure their first series triumph in Australia and something of a standoff on team-namings appeared to develop on the eve of the match.
India skipper Virat Kohli’s press conference was prefaced by an announcement from a team spokesman that Ashwin was not 100 per cent fit and would not be considered for selection.
Australia’s Tim Paine followed and said the hosts were waiting to finalise their team — one of their considerations being whether the Indians played two spinners at a ground that traditionally offers something for the slow bowlers.
Half an hour later, the India team sent out a message saying Ashwin was in the squad and a decision on whether he played would not be made until the first morning of the match on Thursday.
KL Rahul, dropped after the Perth defeat, was recalled to the squad and looks set to open with Hanuma Vihari dropping down the order to bat at number six in place of Rohit Sharma, who has returned home to be at the birth of his first child.
Ishant Sharma, one of the disciplined pace trio that have done so much to put India in such a strong position, was left out because of what the team said was “rib cage discomfort”.
Paine insisted that his priority was to develop his inexperienced cricket team for the future even as they face the prospect of losing a home series against India for the first time.
But he pledged that Australia would still pick the “best XI that we think is the best combination to win this Test” once they had seen the Sydney pitch.
The hosts’ top order has largely failed to fire and the odds are mounting that the underperforming Aaron Finch will either be pushed down or axed, with number three Usman Khawaja moving up to open alongside Marcus Harris.
“If that’s the way we go, Usman will go out and give his all as he always does. I think the way he’s handled the last month or so has been exemplary, it’s a real credit to him,” said Paine.