December 23, 2018 / 4:41 AM / 3 months ago

Cricket-India spinners in race to be fit for Boxing Day test

MELBOURNE, Dec 23 (Reuters) - India spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are both under an injury cloud ahead of the Boxing Day test against Australia, leaving the tourists with a potential selection conundrum.

India coach Ravi Shastri said offspinner Ashwin was still recovering from an abdominal strain that caused him to miss the second test in Perth, while left-arm spinner Jadeja had been nursing a shoulder problem.

Shastri revealed that Jadeja’s injury had also ruled him out at Perth Stadium, where India went with a four-prong pace attack and duly slumped to a 146-run loss that levelled the four-test series 1-1.

“The problem with Jaddu (Jadeja) is that he had taken an injection four days into coming to Australia, because of some stiffness in the shoulder and it took a while for that injection to settle down,” Shastri told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

“So when you look at Perth, we felt that he was maybe 60-70 percent fit and that we didn’t want to risk that in Perth. If he was 80 percent fit here (MCG), he will play.”

Ashwin, meanwhile, needed to be evaluated over the next 48 hours, the coach said.

The injuries could open the door for left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who played the last of his five tests against West Indies at Hyderabad.

The MCG pitch offered little for bowlers of any stripe in the drawn Ashes test last year, being rated “poor” by the International Cricket Council in an embarrassment for the organisers.

But most teams are loath to go in with an all-out pace attack at the venue. The last time the hosts did so, they were thrashed by an innings and 157 runs against England and gave up the Ashes.

There was better news for batsman Rohit Sharma, who played the opener in Adelaide but missed Perth due to a lower back injury sustained during fielding practice.

Shastri said the batsman had made “a very good improvement” but would still need to be assessed on Monday, two days before the test starts.

Rohit was replaced by spin bowling all-rounder Hanuma Vihari at number six in the batting order in Perth.

His reinstatement may depend on whether there is change at the top of India’s batting order where openers Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay are under pressure to keep their spots.

Rahul managed only 48 runs from four innings while Vijay has not fared any better with a total of 49 from as many innings.

The more-experienced Vijay, with 61 tests under his belt, was dropped during India’s series in England for poor form and subsequently kept out against West Indies at home.

India may also be keen to welcome back seam-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya who has joined the squad after recovering from a back injury sustained during the Asia Cup. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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