New Delhi: If it were an ODI, India would have stuffed their eleven with untested players. But it's not. It's a Test match, and more than that, it's an opportunity to whitewash Australia 4-0, which India have never done before. In short, history beckons India here at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.
The fourth Test at the Kotla was initially scheduled to be the series opener, but for some reason the BCCI re-scheduled it to be the last. How lucky should DDCA consider itself, for its chance to enter the history books for good reasons - after all the bad ones in 2009.
The unassailable nature of a 3-0 scoreline generally makes team selection a less worrisome job, but that's not on offer for MS Dhoni and Michael Clarke. The two skippers have selection problems in plenty before they could exchange the team sheets at the toss.
The most notable absentee in Delhi will be hometown boy and Mohali hero Shikhar Dhawan, who has been ruled out due to a hand injury after he fell on his knuckles while fielding in his debut Test. Dhawan's injury could be Ajinkya Rahane's ticket to a Test debut, but by recalling Suresh Raina to the squad, the Indian team management has held its cards back.
There are two scenarios: first, that India hand Rahane a debut as an opener - he is a qualified opener in ODIs and domestic cricket - to partner Murali Vijay; second, that India push Cheteshwar Pujara up the order as they did in Ahmedabad in November and in Mohali on Monday, during the second innings. With Raina included as a reserve middle-order batsman, the second scenario is entirely plausible. Up goes Pujara, in comes Raina into the middle order and out sits Rahane as he has been doing for over a year with India's Test squad.
But if we go by Indian selection committee's statement that classified Rahane as a middle-order batsman, it could also end up as a toss-up between Raina and Rahane. None would mind that as one is trying to cement himself in Test cricket while the other is open to grab any opportunity he gets to make a Test debut.
It's hard to see India making any other change, with Pragyan Ojha - who replaced Harbhajan Singh in Mohali - also getting among the wickets. The left-arm spinner took two wickets in each innings during India's six-wicket win at the PCA Stadium. Ishant Sharma's name may also be debatable but the Delhi pacer may have earned himself another Test cap with his three wickets with the old ball in Mohali, though he continues to fail with the new ball.
It will also be a home Test for Virat Kohli, who, after scoring a century in the first Test at Chennai, scored 67 in the first innings at Mohali. And with Australia under pressure, this could be Kohli's chance to get a home Test ton under his belt.
Australia aren't short of selection problems either. Shane Watson is back after calming himself over 'homework' punishment, but his arrival may cause a fresh headache should Michael Clarke recover from his back injury. Clarke's back has troubled him for some years now and the niggle got flared up while warming up on day four in Mohali, forcing him to bat at number six in Australia's second innings.
Signals emanating from the Australian camp since then indicate that Clarke may not be available for selection in Delhi after he failed to train on Wednesday. That has improved Watson's chances to make his captaincy debut in Test cricket, turning him from an offender to a mentor. But Australia will be in a selection quandary should Clarke become available.
If Clarke takes the field on Friday, it would mean either Phillip Hughes or Steven Smith will have to make way for Shane Watson, which will be a tad cruel on the youngsters after the way they fought in Mohali. Hughes overcame his run of failures to notch up 69 in the second innings while Smith played a responsible knock of 92 in the first innings.
Equally unfortunate is Mitchell Starc, whose injured ankle forced him to fly back home to undergo a surgery. He has been performing consistently with the ball in this series and almost came close to scoring his maiden Test century before edging Ishant Sharma on 99 in Australia's first innings at Mohali. That means after serving his suspension over failure to complete his 'homework', James Pattinson should be an automatic replacement for Starc.
Australia won't be surprised to know what's in waiting at the Kotla - a dry, sluggish pitch with low bounce. With the Delhi summer settling in, the Kotla track should be nice and dry for India to spin another web around the Australians and celebrate a historic 4-0 triumph.
India: Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina/Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha
Australia: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson (capt), Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Moises Henriques, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty
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