India and Australia will go head to head in the Melbourne Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which is starting on December 26 with the four-match series well poised and levelled at 1-1. India won the first Test at Adelaide while Australia took the honours in the second at Perth. Ahead of the Boxing Day Test, Ravi Shastri revealed the reason behind Ravindra Jadeja not playing the Perth Test and took a dig at the detractors for jumping to conclusions.
India had made changes to their Adelaide squad at Perth due to the injuries of Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli and the Indian team management were criticised for not going with a full-time spinner in a match that saw Nathan Lyon bag an 8-wicket haul.
“When you’re millions of miles away it’s very easy to fire blanks. The problem with Jadu [Jadeja] is that he had taken an injection four days into coming to Australia, because of some stiffness in the shoulder and it took a while for that injection to settle down,” Ravi Shastri told reporters on Sunday.
“So when you look at Perth, we felt that he was maybe 60-70 per cent fit and that we didn’t want to risk that in Perth. If he [Jadeja] was 80 per cent fit here [MCG], he will play.”
“He had taken an injection even in India but he played domestic cricket after that. It took longer than we expected, hence we had to be careful.
“The last thing we wanted was someone breaking down after five or 10 overs and then we are stuck for players to pick for Melbourne or Sydney.
“We’ll have to evaluate [Jadeja] fitness over a 24-hour period and take it one step from there, and also (evaluate) the conditions.”
Shastri also said that there is still a doubt over the participation of Ashwin and Rohit Sharma in the MCG Test as they might not be 100 per cent fit to be fielded.
“As far as fitness goes, Ashwin we are going to take a look and evaluate over the next 48 hours,” Shastri said.
“Rohit Sharma looks good, he’s made a very good improvement. But then again, we’ve got to see how he comes up tomorrow but he looks good today. Pandya’s fit.”
Former Australia batsman Michael Hussey on Friday said that conditions for the third Test in Melbourne will be a lot different from those in Perth and India should consider drafting in all-rounder Pandya to bring balance to their attack. Shastri, however, was also considering the fact that Pandya had played only one first-class game since his return from injury. Pandya had taken a 5-wicket haul in that Ranji Trophy match.
Sunil Gavaskar, after the Perth Test, had said that he does not see Pandya fitting in the team right now but backed Mayank Agarwal to replace KL Rahul at the top and make his place in the opening combination.
Shastri though did not make it clear if India were going to go for a change at the top but accepted that it was a “big concern”.
“It’s a big concern,” Shastri said.