Third Test preview: Australia v India
Opportunity knocks for Australia to end a relatively successful year with another series triumph – and take a psychological advantage into next year's World Cup – against the reigning champions, even if in a different format.
David Warner, Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh are all battling injury, with the first two expected to play – but perhaps not the latter. India, meanwhile, will be without Ravindra Jadeja and perhaps Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground will witness a great spectacle, as the year concludes in front of near capacity crowds. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has demanded improvement from the tourists, but face a daunting challenge against the Aussie cricketers – and fans.
It's another chance for Steven Smith to prove his captaincy pedigree. By most accounts, he is the right man for the job. There remain, however, some critics to be silenced.
The added responsibility hasn't taken away from his primary role with the bat, while the stand-in role as skipper – in the first Test, at least – brought plenty from Virat Kohli. Long may it continue, for entertainment value and India's sake.
The rotation of Australia's pace attack is often a big talking point. Mitchell Starc is seldom afforded consecutive Tests. If he plays at the MCG, he must deliver.
Ishant Sharma has succeeded against the Aussies on tours of yesteryear, but can't rest on those past relative glories. Now is the time to strike, again, when his side need him most.
Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2014: Second Test: Australia won by four wickets in Brisbane
2014: First Test: Australia won by 48 runs in Adelaide
2013: Fourth Test: India won by six wickets in Delhi
2013: Third Test: India won by six wickets in Mohali
2013: Second Test: India won by an innings and 135 runs in Hyderabad
Australia: Steven Smith, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Joe Burns, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Akshar Patel.
Dates: 26-30 December
On-field umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Kumar Dharmasena
Third umpire: John Ward
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama
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