Sydney, Jan 2(AP/UNB) — There's no doubt ahead of the series finale about Virat Kohli's squad taking the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back to India.
There's plenty of uncertainty, though, about Ravi Ashwin's involvement at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and what influence that could have on India's main goal of the tour Down Under: to win a test series on Australian soil for the first time.
All Kohli's crew needs to do to achieve that feat is avoid a loss in the fourth test, having ensured they'll retain the bilateral trophy by taking a 2-1 lead in the series with a 137-run victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the Boxing Day test. That means the best an unsettled Australia lineup can do is draw the four-match contest by winning in Sydney.
Australia captain Tim Paine was unable to settle on a starting XI on Wednesday, the eve of the match, saying he'd wait to see what the wicket was like on the first morning of the match. It's likely there'll be a reshuffle of the faltering top order, with Usman Khawaja tipped to move up to open the innings, and Marnus Labuschagne a contender for a call up as a backup spinning option on a wicket expected to favor spin as it deteriorates.
India's squad is also unsettled. Kohli made comments about the possible absence of frontline spinner Ashwin, who missed the second and third tests after straining his abdomen while playing a key role in his team's victory in the first test in Adelaide last month.
But the Board of Control for Cricket in India released a 13-man squad, including Ashwin and excluding paceman Ishant Sharma, two hours later and said it would be trimmed before the toss. The BCCI said a decision on Ashwin's availability would be made on the morning of the match.
Opener KL Rahul, left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav and seamer Umesh Yadav were all added to the squad.
If Ashwin is ruled out, it would allow left-arm orthodox spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who took five wickets in the MCG test, to retain his place for the series finale with possible backup from part-timer Hanuma Vihari.
"He's very important for sure. In test cricket he's a vital part of this team and we wanted him to be 100 percent fit for a longer period so that he can come back to us in the test format," Kohli said of Ashwin, who missed the end of India's previous test series against England.
India will be missing middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma, who has returned home after the birth of his daughter.
Australia has been a vulnerable target for top-ranked India since senior batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner were suspended for 12 months and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft for nine months in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March.
After leveling the series with a 146-run win in the second test in Perth, the Australians were again outplayed in Melbourne on a wicket where India won the toss and batted for the first two days to set up victory.
The Australian top order has been unable to consistently post big scores or partnerships, and selectors are under pressure to stop persisting with Aaron Finch as a test opener and bat him in the middle order.
Australia (from): Tim Paine (captain), Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Aaron Finch, Marnus Labuschagne, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Handscomb, Mitch Marsh, Peter Siddle.
India (from): Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav.
Sydney, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) —Some light has been shed on the on-field banter between rival wicketkeepers with an Instagram post by the wife of Australia captain Tim Paine praising India's young gloveman Rishabh Pant as the "Best babysitter."
Bonnie Paine's post, and photo of Pant holding the baby, Charlie Paine, while the two teams visited the Australian prime minister's residence on New Year's Day has been widely shared on social media by the likes of the International Cricket Council and legendary spin bowler Shane Warne.
Banter between players has long been a factor in international cricket and is referred to in Australia as sledging, but it sometimes goes too far.
Some Australian teams have been criticized in the past for crossing the boundary with their sledging, and there has been animosity between Australian and Indian players on previous tours.
Audio of some of the verbal exchanges between Paine and Pant in the third test in Melbourne last week was broadcast live.
Paine at one stage raised Pant's omission from India's limited-overs squad, suggested his younger rival would have enough spare time as a result on his "holiday" to babysit his children and join one of the franchises in Australia's Big Bash Twenty20 league.
"You can come over for dinner. Do you babysit? I'll take my wife to the movies, you can look after the kids?" Paine was heard to say on the TV broadcast.
Pant responded by questioning Paine's appointment as Australia's "temporary captain" in the aftermath of a ball-tampering scandal in March that led to 12-month bans for then Australia captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner.
India leads the four-match series 2-1 and needs only to avoid a loss in Sydney in the last match starting Thursday to secure its first ever test match series win on Australian soil.
Clearly, neither Paine nor Pant wanted any negative sentiment to fester.
Paine referred to the Instagram post on Wednesday, commending Pant's good humor.
"He was a good sport about it, and he is on the field too," the Australian Broadcasting Corp. quoted Paine as saying. "A fair bit's been made of a bit of banter between two wicketkeepers that's been pretty light-hearted."
Dhaka, Jan 1 (UNB) — Comilla Victorians, Rajshahi Kings and Sylhet Sixers have started gearing up for the sixth edition of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
The tournament is set to commence from January 5 at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, with the opening encounter between Rangpur Riders and Chittagong Vikings. The 46-match contest will be held in three venues in Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet.
Comilla Victorians held their first practice session under head coach Mohammad Salahuddin. But Rajshahi and Sylhet are yet to get services of their head coaches.
Rajshahi and Sylhet will be coached respectively by former South African international Lance Klusener and former Pakistan pacer Waqar Younis respectively.
They will join their sides within January 3, a source told UNB.
In the absence of head coaches, Rajshahi and Sylhet held their first practice sessions under Mizanur Rahman Babul and Jafrul Ehsan respectively. They will be assistant coaches during BPL.
Tamim Iqbal, the a-plus category player of Comilla Victorians was present at the first practice session of his team. But, Mustafizur Rahman and Liton Das, a-plus category players of Rajshahi and Sylhet, skipped theirs.
A source said they would join their respective teams from the next session.
Foreign players are yet to join BPL teams. Most of them will join within January 3.
“We have a good combination this year. The team has players like Tamim and Imrul Kayes from the local guys, and we also have Shoaib Malik, Steve Smith and Shahid Afridi. I think we can regain the BPL crown,” Anamul Haque Bijoy, the right-handed opener for Comilla, told reporters on Tuesday.
“This year’s BPL is important for me. I have scored runs in BCL and NCL. Now, some good innings in BPL will help me secure a place in the Bangladesh World Cup squad,” he said.
Shahriar Nafees, the former national team captain, will play for Rajshahi Kings. The left-handed top-order batsman said: “The Rajshahi management tried their best to create a balanced squad. We really have the best local guys in our team.
“I believe we are capable of winning against any team. Our initial target will be to qualify for the play-off stage.”
Dhaka, Jan 1 (UNB) - Former Bangladesh Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim will lead Chittagong Vikings in the upcoming 6th Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Cricket beginning on Saturday (Jan 5) at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka.
Chairman of the BPL franchise Chittagong Vikings Abdul Wahed announced the decision at a ceremony here on Tuesday.
Being one of the most popular franchises in BPL cricket, Chittagong Vikings are yet to lift a trophy and they are hopeful to do it in this season.
Addressing the ceremony, Wahed said, “We have a wonderful team this year with the experience campaigners like Mushfiqur, Ronchi, Sikandar Raza, Delport and many more. We’re delighted to have Mushfiqur as our captain and we hope that this season is going to be a blast for us.”
Chittagong Vikings will face defending champions Rangpur Riders in the BPL opener on Saturday.
Dhaka, Jan 1 (UNB) – Bangladesh and former champions Sri Lanka will have to play in the group stage of the ICC World T20 scheduled for Australia in 2020 as both the teams failed to manage top eight positions in the ICC Men’s T20 World Ranking within the deadline of December 31, 2018.
According to qualification criteria set for the ensuing World T20, the top eight teams make it straight to the Super-12 stage while the remaining two teams will play in the group stage along with six other teams who will make it through from the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers in 2019. Four teams from the group stage will advance to the Super-12.
Top eight teams of the ICC T20 World Ranking till December 2018 -- Pakistan, India, England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Afghanistan -- will directly play in the 12-team final round while ICC ranked 9th Sri and ranked 10th Bangladesh will have to play in the eight-team group stage to be held from 18 October to 15 November 2020 to book the remaining four seats for the final round.
In an immediate reaction, Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga was disappointed at 2014 champions not making it to the Super-12 but was confident of the team doing well in the tournament while Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan indicated that recent performances had given them belief and they would prepare well for the challenge.
Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga said, “It’s a bit disappointing that we have not been able to ensure a direct Super-12 berth but I’m confident that we will do well in the tournament.
“Having played three finals and winning once, it is natural that everyone expected us to finish in the top-eight but we have to take the opportunity in the extra matches of the group stage and prepare well for the knock-out matches.
Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan said, “We haven’t secured a direct Super-12 berth but I’m confident that we will do well in the tournament by going through the group stage.”
“We are a side capable of beating the best on our day and I see no reason why we can’t go far in the tournament. There’s still some time and we will use it to be at our best for the T20 World Cup,” he said.
“We won a T20 series against the West Indies, the world champions, in their backward not so long ago. That performance has given us a lot of belief in our Twenty20 capabilities,” Shakib added.