Three fresh fast bowlers could be called in by Australia for the third Test in Indore, while India are considering replacing KL Rahul, the man who started the series as their vice-captain, with Shubman Gill.
Fill-in captain Steve Smith has tipped the Holkar Stadium surface to take turn, but the tourists are unsure whether it will offer it as early as the first two Tests did, potentially opening the door for Scott Boland to be recalled.
“It’s pretty dry at both ends, probably (from) about six metres down, so I daresay it will take some reasonable spin as the game wears on. I’m not sure how much it will take to begin with, we’ll wait and see,” Smith told reporters.
With regular skipper Pat Cummins and David Warner heading home after the second Test, Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green appear certain to return with both over the worst of the finger injuries that have sidelined them since the Boxing Day Test.
The Aussies must then weigh up whether Starc, Green and Nathan Lyon are best supported by two more spinners in Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann, or if Boland could replace one of those two after a strong showing in the series opener in Nagpur.
Lance Morris, the uncapped speedster who has endlessly troubled Australian batters in the nets on this tour, is the other option but on match eve was bowling off-spin in the nets to Green to assist the allrounder’s preparation.
The sight of Boland on the other hand having a lengthy preparation routine on a centre wicket adjacent to the pitch being prepared for the third Test suggests the paceman is back in the mix after being replaced by Kuhnemann in Delhi.
Boland, who went wicketless in the first Test in Nagpur but was lauded for his holding role and impeccable accuracy, also had an extended discussion with coach Andrew McDonald during their final training session before Wednesday’s match.
Murphy took seven wickets on debut, but bowled with a side issue during the second Test. He looked untroubled during a long bowl in the nets two days out from the third Test, but then did not bowl on Tuesday.
Instead, he had a long conversation with selector Tony Dodemaide before underarming tennis balls to assist in a bat-pad catching drill.
Smith was coy when asked about selection but said a return to fielding two specialist quicks plus Green was among the options they were considering.
“It’s certainly an option with Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc back online now,” he said. “It certainly provides us with opportunities to see which way we want to go whether it’s an extra (spinner), an extra batter or a third quick. We’ve got some options.”
Finding a way to knock over India’s lower-order, which has been a major reason behind their success in the first two matches, is an important consideration for the Australians.
“Particularly with Green and Starc (we have) two fast bowlers now and five out-and-out bowlers which potentially gives us a few different ways to go about things,” said Smith.
“Whether we want to bowl some quick stuff at the tail to try and unsettle them … we’ve just got to play what’s in front of us.
“We’ve certainly got a few options there to hopefully not allow the tail to wag like they have done in the first couple of games.”
Smith also said Australia were open to extending their batting order following collapses in each of the first two Tests, meaning Matthew Renshaw (who was dropped for Delhi before being called in as Warner’s concussion replacement a day later) may not be out of the reckoning.
Renshaw had a long bat in the nets on Tuesday but is now behind Travis Head for an opening berth in the subcontinent following Head’s impressive hand in the second innings in Delhi.
Shubman Gill meanwhile is in line to return to the fold for the home side after Rohit Sharma was forced to downplay India’s decision to remove Rahul from the vice-captaincy for the final two Tests of the series.
Rahul had the VC initials next to his name when India’s squad for the first two Tests against Australia was announced last month, but those letters were then gone for the updated squad announcement last week.
Rohit referred to Rahul’s “removal” from the vice-captaincy when speaking to media on Tuesday, and his opening partner is now facing pressure for his spot after failing to pass 23 in his past 10 Test innings.
Gill, the 23-year-old who impressed on his maiden Test campaign in 2020-21, India’s 2-1 series win in Australia, shapes as a likely replacement if Rahul was axed following intense scrutiny from local media over how the pair have trained in recent days.
“Being vice-captain or not being vice-captain doesn’t actually tell you anything. His removal of vice captain doesn’t indicate anything,” Rohit said of Rahul.
“As far as Gill and KL both are concerned, I mean that is how they train, that is how they practice before any game.”
Border-Gavaskar Qantas Tour of India 2023
February 9-13: India won by an innings and 132 runs
February 17-21: India won by six wickets
March 1-5: Third Test, Indore, 3pm AEDT
March 9-13: Fourth Test, Ahmedabad, 3pm AEDT
All matches broadcast live and exclusive on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson
India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat