Mumbai: India’s unwavering pursuit of history hit a minor glitch at the 11th hour with injury concerns but Virat Kohli’s men will still walk in as overwhelming favourites against a faltering Australia in the fourth and final Test starting in Sydney on Thursday.
Leading 2-1 in the four-match series, India remain firm favourites to make it 3-1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground despite serious fitness issue pertaining to their premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and senior pacer Ishant Sharma, who has not been named in the 13-member list.
Australia have hosted India since 1947-48, and barring three occasions — in 1980-81, 1985-86 and 2003-04 which were drawn — they have lost the Test series on seven occasions — 1967-68, 1977-78, 1991-92, 1999-2000, 2007-08, 2011-12, 2014-15.
Virat Kohli, thus, is in a unique position as the only Indian captain to go into the final Test on Australian soil with the cushion of a series lead.
A series win in Australia will certainly put Kohli on a higher pedestal even though the quality of the home team’s batting line-up suffered adversely due to the bans of former skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner.
However, Kohli will have some thinking to do over his team combination as the skipper revealed that senior off-spinner Ashwin hasn’t adequately recovered from his injury despite being named in the preliminary 13-member squad.
With spin considered a traditional factor in any Sydney Test, India were left fretting over the fitness of Ashwin, who is yet to recover from left abdominal strain that laid him low after the first Test in Adelaide.
Ishant Sharma is out after experiencing discomfort in his left rib cage and the team management didn’t want to risk him by playing him in the decider.
While Ashwin had played on in Nottingham and Southampton despite a groin injury )as revealed by the team management only at the Oval), he has already missed two Tests — in Perth and Melbourne — in the on-going series.
In a strange u-turn, after he was ruled out at the time of Kohli’s pre-match press conference, Ashwin has been named in the 13-man shortlist for this fourth Test.
A final decision on his fitness and availability for the match will be taken at toss-time.
Additionally, India have included left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav as cover, in case the skipper decides to go in with two spinners.
Umesh Yadav has been included in the shortlist ahead of an injured Ishant Sharma, along with Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
Meanwhile, in Rohit Sharma’s absence, out-of-favour opener KL Rahul could be slated for a comeback after missing out in Melbourne, with Hanuma Vihari slotting down to his number six spot.
This is on assumption that regardless of Ashwin’s fitness, India will opt to play four bowlers, whether in a two-pacer-two spinners or three-pacers-one-spinner combination.
There is no option of playing an all-rounder as Hardik Pandya continues to be ignored, despite a hectic pre-match workout in the nets with both bat and ball. Kohli has described Vihari as an ‘exciting’ spinner and he will be the second spin option, if India retain their bowling combination from the MCG Test.
Messi the best in history : Puyol
London: Barca defeated Manchester United comprehensively in the Champions League quarter-finals with Messi scoring twice in the second leg at Camp Nou. He is top scorer in the competition this season with 10 goals and also tops the scoring charts in La Liga, where Barca are virtually assured of a second consecutive title.
Puyol, the ex-Barca captain who won three Champions League titles, praises Messi as a true leader in Ernesto Valverde’s side.
“He is playing at an incredible level,” Puyol told Goal at the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour Presented by Heineken in Lagos, Nigeria.
“For me, he is the best ever player in the history of the game.
“He has shown that season after season and you can see how his game has evolved, all the things he now does. And you can see he’s improving every year with new attributes he has brought to his game.
“He has improved in every way and he is taking a step forward on a personal level. He has always been a leader on the field but now, you can see that he is a leader on and off the pitch.
“He is an introverted person but now you can see that he is leading from the front as the captain of Barcelona.”
Messi has scored an incredible 45 goals in 42 games in all competitions for Barca this season, and has added another 21 assists. They are nine points clear of Atletico Madrid in the league, with only 18 left to play for, and are now favourites to add another Champions League to their collection with a double header against Liverpool in the semi-finals to come.
“It’s been very good in the Champions League and also in all the other competitions,” said Puyol.
“They’re playing really good football and they have the chance of winning everything. Right now it’s great because the best is yet to come this season.
“Barcelona are one of the favourites for the Champions League because there are only four teams left.
PCB decides not to allow cricketers to take their families along during the WC
Islamabad: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to not allow the national team’s players to bring their families along on the upcoming 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales starting on May 30.
The decision has been taken keeping in mind the pressure of the tournament, the board said while adding that the focus of the payers should be on their game during the World Cup.
The board, has mentioned that players’ families can travel to England on their own expense.
Additionally, the board clarified that the players could keep their families along with them during the series against England prior to the World Cup, a private news channel reported.
The cricket team will travel to England on April 23 to participate in the two and a half month long tour including the series against England and the World Cup.
Chief Selector Inzamamul Haq announced Pakistan’s 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup squad which left out experienced fast bowler Mohammad Amir.
Pandya, KL Rahul fined Rs 20 lakh each by BCCI Ombudsman
Mumbai: Indian cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul were on Saturday handed a fine of Rs 20 lakh each by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Ombudsman Justice (Retd) D K Jain for their sexist remarks in a television chat show “Koffee with Karan”.
The BCCI Ombudsman directed the duo to pay Rs 1,00,000 each to the families of 10 constables in para-military forces who have lost their lives while on duty through ‘Bharat Ke Veer App”.
Pandya and Rahul have also been directed to pay Rs 10 lakh each in the fund created by Cricket Association for the Blind (CAB) and for promotion of game for the blind.
All payments need to be made within a month from the date of the order, the BCCI Ombudsman further said.
Jain also instructed that in case the duo fails to deposit the fine within the deadline, the amounts would be deducted from Pandya and Rahul’s match fees by the BCCI.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court-appointed BCCI Ombudsman had summoned Pandya and Rahul for deposition over their controversial remarks on the celebrity chat show.
The two players were earlier in January provisionally suspended by the apex court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) for their loose talk on the show.
However, Pandya and Rahul tendered unconditional apologies and the ban on the duo was provisionally lifted pending an inquiry by the BCCI Ombudsman.