India could make as many as four changes for the second Test at the MCG on Boxing Day, with the quartet of KL Rahul, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant and Mohammad Siraj all slated to come into the side. While the situation over Jadeja is unclear, MSK Prasad has called for Vihari to bat at No.4.
On the back of the horror show in Adelaide that saw the side get rolled over for an appalling 36, reports have emerged that the Indian management have braced themselves to vigorously swing the axe and make a ring of changes for the second Test in Melbourne, starting December 26.
According to a TOI report, struggling opening batsman Prithvi Shaw and specialist wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha look all set to be booted out of the side on the back of their underwhelming display in Adelaide, and replaced by the duo of Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant, both of whom impressed in the warm-up games. While Gill, should he play, will be making his debut, Pant, on the other hand, will merely be regaining his spot in the side, having kept wickets in the New Zealand tour which team India lost 2-0.
Commenting on the speculation that Pant might be drafted into the side, former chief selector MSK Prasad opined that it would be the right call, and in fact revealed how under his tenure, the selectors had zeroed in on the Delhite as the permanent keeper for away fixtures.
"Look, our committee was clear that Rishabh Pant will be our first-choice 'keeper in places like England and Australia. Only when we are looking at matches in India, where you don't need batting after number six most times, you can have a specialist 'keeper," Prasad told PTI on Sunday.
"I believe Rishabh has worked on his fitness issues during the past month and looked in good touch during the pink-ball practice game. So I would agree with the team management if they give Rishabh a go for the next three Tests.”
According to the report, Pant will be given an opportunity to play, ahead of Saha, in each of the last three Tests. It is also believed that an exceptional performance from the 23-year-old could even see him start ahead of the Bengal veteran in the five-match Test series against England next year.
Barring Pant and Gill, the other two cricketers slated to walk into the side are KL Rahul and Mohammad Siraj, who are expected to fill in for Virat Kohli and Mohammad Shami respectively. While Rahul has not played a Test since his outing versus the Windies last year, Siraj, like Gill, will be making his Test debut. Apart from impressing in first-class matches, Siraj also put on an attractive showing in the warm-up games against Australia A, where he picked up 5 wickets across 2 matches.
Where Rahul and Gill will slot into the batting order, however, remains a mystery. The reasoning behind India opening with Shaw in the first Test was seen as them moulding Gill as a long-term No.4, but with Rahul’s woes against the new ball in overseas conditions well established, it remains to be seen if the management will take the bold call of opening with the Karnataka batsman, particularly on the back of his dismal showing in the 2018/19 tour.
Another option would be to slot the experienced Hanuma Vihari at No.4 and push the returning Rahul to No.6, an option which Prasad has vouched for. Vihari incidentally batted at No.4 in both the warm-up games, and Prasad reckoned that the Andhra batsman has all the tools to be a successful, long-term No.4 batter. He also was of the opinion that Rahul could do a fine job at No.6.
"Vihari has a very sound technique and temperament and he can serve this Test team for a long time. In the absence of Virat, it would be a great opportunity for him and KL (Rahul) to stand up and be counted," Prasad said.
"I would prefer Vihari batting at No. 4 or 5 in the next few Tests and face the challenge. He is a gutsy boy and I have confidence that he will do well if given the challenge. KL can be a good No. 6 in this series.”