Suryakumar Yadav. (Photo Source: Twitter)
The most anticipated series of the World Test Championship is set to commence on February 9 as India host Australia in a four-match Test series. The last three Test series between the two sides have been won by the team from the sub-continent out of which two were won on Australian soil.
Australia would be hoping for a first Test series victory in India since 2004. Australia are coming to the sub-continent with a full-fledged squad, and have covered all the departments. India have also announced a strong squad for the first two Test matches and both the teams would have a selection headache ahead of the first game of the Test series.
Let us look at the five players who could be benched in the first Test.
1) Suryakumar Yadav
Suryakumar Yadav. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Suryakumar Yadav has been excellent in the shortest format of the game and played a vital role for India in 2022. Cricket experts like Ravi Shastri claimed that Suryakumar should be given a chance in the red-ball format and expressed that can be a key difference for Team India in crucial matches. The selectors went for the Mumbai Indians batter instead of Sarfaraz Khan who is currently the top run scorer of the ongoing Ranji Trophy season.
The explosive batter has also done well in First-Class cricket and has done well to deserve a national call-up. He has scored over 5000 runs in 128 innings with an average of 43 and has 26 fifties and 13 hundreds to his name. He also has a double century to his name and he scores at a decent strike rate of 64 in First-Class cricket.
But chances for a Test debut in the first Test in Nagpur look glim against Australia. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have already locked down the middle order and only an injury can make him slot into the team. The Indian team usually goes with the combination of five bowlers including Jadeja and Axar who provide extra batting depth, so an addition of a batter to the playing XI is not on the cards.
2) Mitchell Swepson
Mitch Swepson. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Mitchell Swepson, the right-arm wrist-spinner, is in the Australian Test squad to India squad for the second time, having been in the squad for the 2017 series as well. He did not make the starting line-up once during the series and had to wait over five years to make his Test debut.
He made his Test debut against Pakistan in March 2022 but failed to impress as he got two wickets in the 63 overs over the course of two innings. He went wicketless in the second Test. There were concerns over his selection but featured in the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka. He went wicketless in both those matches, which hasn’t helped his case at all.
Australia have recruited young leg spinner Todd Murphy into their squad after his exploits in domestic cricket. Todd has taken 29 wickets in the seven First-Class matches so far. If Australia decides to go with the wrist-spinner in their line-up, they might just give a chance to the youngster over Swepson, considering the latter hasn’t had a great start to Test cricket.
3) Scott Boland
Scott Boland. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Scott Boland has had an excellent start to his cricket career and has been sensational whenever called upon by the skipper. The Melbourne-born pacer is popularly remembered for his exploits against England in the Ashes where he took a six-fer for just seven runs in a four-over spell. He has been a fan favourite and has been a part of the Australian squad ever since.
The 33-year-old has been delivering the goods, giving tough competition to the likes of Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc for a spot in the Australian Test line-up but still hasn’t been able to cement his place. The speedster has been a gun bowler for Pat Cummins whenever called upon. He has only played Test cricket in Australia so selecting him straight in the first Test in India might be a strange call.
Mitchell Starc has already been ruled out of the first Test but looks highly unlikely that Boland will get a nod. Australia would be tempted to go ahead with two speedsters, including their talismanic skipper Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood. An injury to either of them during the tour might open a spot for Boland.
4) Peter Handscomb
Peter Handscomb of Australia walks off. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Peter Handscomb was one of the most promising batters for Australian cricket when Australia last toured India. He had an amazing start to his career after scoring crucial runs for his side against South Africa and Pakistan in 2016.
It all went downhill for the Melbourne-born wicketkeeping-batter on his tour of India as he played all four Tests but only managed to score a fifty in his eight innings. He averages 28.28 in India at a strike-rate of around 40.24, which might not secure a spot in the XI in Nagpur.
The Australian batting line-up has been solid and their top and middle-order scored centuries for fun during their home season. There are rarely any spots open in the batting line-up and only an injury to one of the batters can pave way for a comeback for Peter Handscomb. The right-handed batter last played a Test against India back in in 2018-19.
5) Jaydev Unadkat
Jaydev Unadkat. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Jaydev Unadkat was one of the talking points in India’s last Test series in December 2022. He finally got the much-deserved call-up in the first Test against Bangladesh, where he was a lethal bowler for India scalping three main wickets in 25 overs over the course of two innings.
The left-arm fast bowler was picked after his continuous performances in the Ranji Trophy over the past few years. His First-Class numbers are staggering and has experience of playing over 100 Ranji Trophy games. He has 373 wickets to his name along with 21 five-fers, 18 four-fers and five ten-wicket matches to his accomplishments.
The Porbandar-born cricketer would have difficulty to find a place in the strong Indian bowling line-up. India would be likely to go with the in-form pacer Mohammed Siraj along with the experienced Mohammed Shami. Umesh Yadav is also in the squad and can be picked ahead of the Saurashtra bowler. It would be a surprising call if Unadkat is selected ahead of any of the three pacers for the first Test.