SYDNEY: India reversed an earlier decision about the availability of Ravichandran Ashwin for the fourth and final test against Australia and named the off-spinner in their 13-man match squad 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 per cent 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 in the squad and a decision on whether he played would not be made until the first morning of the match on Thursday.
KL Rahul, dropped after the Perth defeat, was recalled to the squad and looks set to open with Hanuma Vihari dropping down the order to bat at number six in place of Rohit Sharma, who has returned home to be at the birth of his first child.
Ishant Sharma, one of the disciplined pace trio that have done so much to put India in such a strong position, was left out because of what the team said was “rib cage discomfort”.
Umesh Yadav will offer a third pace option but given his laboured performance when India played four quicks in Perth, his inclusion might be seen as a strong indication that the tourists will go for a twin spin threat.
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.
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 per cent fit so he can contribute.”
India squad – KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav