Australia vs India 3rd Test Melbourne: With an aim to distribute the workload of their fast bowlers, skipper Tim Paine has made one change to their playing XI for the third Test against India at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), starting on December 26. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been called in place of middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb, who was in ordinary form in the first two Tests versus India. Handscomb’s scored 34, 14, 7 and 13 across those four innings and his lbw dismissal in Perth, pinned deep in his crease by Ishant Sharma, prompted Shane Warne to liken the under-pressure batsman to “a lamb to the slaughter”.
Skipper Paine revealed his side for the Boxing Day Test following Australia’s Christmas morning training session at the MCG. Meanwhile, India have also revealed their final XI for the third Test – Mayank Agarwal will be making his debut in whites, while Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja have returned to the visitors’ squad. Openers – KL Rahul and Murali Vijay have both been axed following their poor performances in the series so far. The tourists suffered a blow with team management confirming spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has not fully recovered from an abdominal strain and won’t be available for the MCG Test.
Speaking at the pre-match conference, Paine confirmed their playing XI and told reporters, “It’s a long series, our bowlers have had a really big workload and we feel we’re going to need Mitch’s bowling at some point”.
“I’m sure Pete would be upset. I think he’s had conversations with the selectors that there’s a few things they would like him to work on and Pete is open to that.
“Pete at his best is going to score a lot of Test runs and not just his batting, he brings a hell of a lot to our side in terms of his fielding, his experience and just the way he generally goes about his cricket.
“We’re sure he’ll score a lot more runs for Australia.”
Paine said he didn’t believe dropping a player from a winning XI would impact Australia’s momentum in the four-Test rubber.
“No I don’t think so, we did it last year during the Ashes as well. The majority of this decision’s been based around it’s a long series, we’ve played on a lot of hot days and our bowlers have had a big workload. We believe Mitch can come in and do a really good job with the bat and obviously he’ll give great support to our bowlers.”
Marsh was dropped for the opening two Tests of the series but the MCG pitch, and Handscomb’s form across the matches in Adelaide and Perth, brought the Western Australian back into calculations.
Australia XI (Melbourne Test): Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk/c), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
India XI (Melbourne Test): Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah