A confident Indian team will look to continue the momentum and post another dominating performance against Australia in the third Test in Sydney, starting on Thursday.

India, despite missing Captain Virat Kohli and senior pacer Mohammed Shami, came up with a clinical performance to trounce Australia by eight wickets in the second Test at Melbourne to level the four-match series at 1-1.

Ajinkya Rahane garnered a lot of praise for his positive captaincy while he also led from the front with the bat with a match-winning century in the first innings at the MCG as India bounced back after their batting debacle in the first Test in Adelaide.

However, injury woes have hampered India’s preparations ahead of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Umesh Yadav has been ruled out of the last two Tests with a calf injury in a big blow to India’s already depleted bowling attack, already missing senior pros Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.

K L Rahul has been ruled out of the rest of the series with a wrist injury he sustained during the nets session on Saturday, thereby limiting India’s options in the batting department.

India will be boosted by the return of star batsman Rohit Sharma who could replace either Mayank Agarwal as opener or Hanuma Vihari in the middle order.

Rohit, who is coming back after an injury lay-off, is desperately short of match practice after he spent 14 days in quarantine in Sydney before joining the Indian team for the last two Tests. He put in the hard yards in the nets session and is set to make his Test comeback at the SCG.

Rohit proved to be an instant success as an opener in Test cricket last year, scoring two centuries in an innings in his first Test as the opener against South Africa in Visakhapatnam in October 2019. He then hit a majestic double century against the same opponents in the Ranchi Test a couple of weeks later.

It would make sense to bring in Rohit as the opener in place of the struggling Agarwal who has managed just 31 runs in the first two Tests.

There is also an option to draft the Mumbai right-hander in the middle order in place of Vihari (45 runs in 3 innings) which will give him time to get used to the grind of Test cricket instead of directly slotting him into action as the opener against the new ball.

There is also a school of thought that Agarwal should continue to open with Shubman Gill with Rohit coming in at No 3 instead of Cheteshwar Pujara, who has struggled in the series with 63 runs in the two Tests at a strike rate of 26. Pujara could move to No 5 instead of Vihari.

In the bowling department, India are likely to continue with the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja with both of them looking in top form, but it remains to be seen who amongst Shardul Thakur or Thangarasu Natarajan gets the nod as the third seamer.

Thakur is an experienced bowler at the first class level with 206 wickets from 62 games and is quite dependable with the ball.

On the other hand, Natarajan put in an impressive showing in the limited overs matches in Australia and even though inexperienced he could bring in some much-needed variety to the attack with his left-arm seam bowling.

Should Rohit replace Agarwal or Vihari?

Who should come in for Umesh? Thakur or Natarajan?

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