Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Ravindra Jadeja fitness boost for India in Melbourne Test selection headache

But Ravichandran Ashwin still struggling with injury before the action in Melbourne, which starts on Wednesday

India are still hoping Ravichandran Ashwin will be fit for the third Test. EPA
India are still hoping Ravichandran Ashwin will be fit for the third Test. EPA

India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja will be available for the Boxing Day Test match against Australia in Melbourne after recovering from a shoulder problem.

The confirmation from the Indian cricket board will come as welcome relief as the visitors grapple with a selection conundrum and seek to reassert themselves with the four-Test series level at 1-1. India won the first Test in Adelaide but Australia restored parity in the second at Perth.

India’s openers are out of form while Jadeja and fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin missed the Perth match with injuries. Jadeja hurt his shoulder during this year’s one-day international series against the West Indies, but the discomfort remained during India’s tour match in Sydney last month and he was given an injection for the pain.

“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,” India coach Ravi Shastri said.

“So when you look at Perth, we felt that he was maybe 60 per cent to 70 per cent fit and that we didn’t want to risk that in Perth,” Shastri added.

A BCCI statement late yesterday provided an update that said: “Jadeja’s left shoulder has continued to improve and he is now available for the third Test of the series in Melbourne.”

However, doubts remain over Ashwin’s availability, who is still recovering from an abdominal strain and is being evaluated regularly, according to Shastri.

The visitors opted for a four-prong pace attack in Perth and suffered a 146-run loss that levelled the series.

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


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.

If Ashwin fails to make it and should India opt to boost their spin attack, it could open the door for young left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who played the last of his five Tests against the West Indies at


Apart from Jadeja, there was better news as well for batsman Rohit Sharma, who played the opener in Adelaide but missed Perth due to a lower back injury suffered during fielding practice.


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

Rohit was replaced by spin bowling all-rounder Hanuma Vihari at No 6 in the batting order in Perth. Rohit’s 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.

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 the 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 suffered during the Asia Cup in the UAE.

Meanwhile, Australia have been boosted by opener Aaron Finch declaring himself fit despite having a damaged right index finger.

Finch is anxious to play in his first Melbourne Test and said: “It feels like it’s improved 100 per cent over the last couple of days. “I got sent some new bats, so I’ve been walking around the lounge room and waving them around. It feels OK.

“If anything changes in the next couple of days, we’ll have to sit down and chat about that but, at this stage, it’s still business as usual and I plan to field at slip and do whatever else is needed.”

Updated: December 23, 2018 11:15 PM