Sydney: India have reversed an earlier decision about the availability of Ravichandran Ashwin for the fourth and final Test against Australia and said the off-spinner would be in the 13-man match squad named later on Wednesday.
With a 2-1 lead, India need only draw the Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground to secure their first series triumph in Australia and something of a standoff on team-namings appeared to develop on the eve of the match.
India skipper Virat Kohli’s press conference was prefaced by an announcement from a team spokesman that Ashwin was not 100 percent fit and would not be considered for selection.
Australia’s Tim Paine followed and said the hosts were waiting to finalise their team — one of their considerations being whether the Indians played two spinners at a ground that traditionally offers something for the slow bowlers.
Half an hour later, the India team sent out a message saying Ashwin was after all to be included in the squad and a decision on whether he played would not be made until the first morning of the match on Thursday.
Ashwin took six for 149 as India won the series opener in Adelaide but was forced to sit out the second Test defeat in Perth and the win in Melbourne because of a side strain.
He underwent fitness tests on Tuesday and Wednesday and Paine said he had been surprised to hear that he was not available for the match.
Batsman Rohit Sharma’s decision to return home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child means India will have to make at least one change for the match.
Kohli spoke at length about his disappointment that Ashwin was not fit for such an important match.
“It’s quite unfortunate that he’s had two niggles that are quite similar on the last couple of away tours,” he said.
“He’s very important in Test cricket, he’s a vital part of this team and we want him to be 100 percent fit so he can contribute.”
Paine fielded questions on the implications of dropping opener Aaron Finch, the less than specatcular form of all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and the possibility of a recall for middle order batsman Peter Handscomb.
Handscomb was dropped for Marsh for the third Test defeat in Melbourne but Paine suggested his ability to bat against spin would count in his favour if India decided on two slow bowlers.
“Pete could be a really important player for us,” Paine said. “We know how good a player of spin he is. That’s one of the discussions we’ll be having today, if we think India will go that way and if they are, are we prepared to bring him back in.”
Finch is also in the firing line after managing just 97 runs in six innings over the first three Tests, more than half of them with a half century in Perth.
Paine suggested that Usman Khawaja would move up the order to open in Finch’s place if that was the decision made. Handscomb or Marnus Labuschagne could then slot in lower down the order....