SYDNEY, January 2: India’s unwavering pursuit of history hit a minor glitch in 11th hour injury concerns but Virat Kohli’s men will still walk in as overwhelming favourites against a faltering Australia in the fourth and final Test starting Thursday.
Leading 2-1 in the four-match series, India remain firm favourites to make it 3-1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground despite the injury cloud over premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and senior pacer Ishant Sharma, who has not been named in the 13-member list.
Australia have hosted India since 1947-48, and barring three occasions – in 1980-81, 1985-86 and 2003-04 which were drawn – the visitors have lost the Test series on seven occasions — 1967-68, 1977-78, 1991-92, 1999-2000, 2007-08, 2011-12, 2014-15.
Virat Kohli, thus, is in a unique position as the only Indian captain to go into the final Test on the Australian soil with the cushion of a series lead.
A series win in Australia will certainly put Kohli on a different pedestal even though the quality of the home team’s batting lineup suffered due to the ball-tampering bans on former skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner.
Kohli will also need to fret over his team combination as the skipper revealed that senior off-spinner hasn’t adequately recovered from his injury despite being named in the preliminary 13-member squad.
With spin considered a traditional factor in any Sydney Test, India were left fretting over the fitness of off-spinner R Ashwin, who is yet to fully recover from left abdominal strain that laid him low after the first Test in Adelaide.
Ishant is out after experiencing discomfort in his left rib cage and the team management didn’t want to risk him by playing him in the decider.
While Ashwin had played on in Nottingham and Southampton (despite a groin injury as revealed by the team management only at the Oval), he has already missed two Tests – in Perth and Melbourne – in the on-going series.
“It’s unfortunate that he’s had two niggles that are quite similar in the last two away tours,” said skipper Kohli. (PTI)
“He’s very important for sure. In Test cricket, he’s a vital part of this team and we wanted him to be 100% fit for a longer period to that he can come back to us in the Test format. He is very disappointed that he’s not able to recover in time,” Kohli elaborated. (PTI)