Who replaces Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami? Should Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill get a game?

Pick your India XI for MCG to decide who should open and who should keep

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Predictions before the Adelaide Test expected India to be down 0-1 going into Melbourne, but the way it happened has left the team management second-guessing itself. Add to it the non-availability of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami, and they have quite a few selection decisions to make. Here is your chance to put on their hat and play selector. As of now, five men are confirmed to start: captain Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav.
The popular demand for a scalp - Prithvi Shaw in particular - is high. It doesn't mean Mayank Agarwal is in the clear by that yardstick. Both Shaw and Agarwal scored a fifty each in New Zealand, both had stellar home series before that and both failed twice in Adelaide. India have two reserve openers in the squad: Shubman Gill, who opens for Punjab in domestic cricket and scored 43 and 65 in the tour game at the SCG and KL Rahul, who has opened for India before, but has played just the one first-class game since being dropped after the West Indies tour last year.
Kohli's replacement
India's No. 4 and captain will not be available for the rest of the series. Going by the warm-up games, it seemed India were planning to promote Hanuma Vihari in order to occupy Kohli's usual spot, with Rahane attached to his No. 5 position. However, India will need a batsman to replace Kohli, who - in Rohit Sharma's absence - will have to be one of Gill and Rahul. But neither might make the cut if India decide they need extra bowling in the absence of two of their first-choice bowlers - Ishant Sharma and Shami - and instead pick Ravindra Jadeja to bat at No. 6.
India went against their policy of playing Rishabh Pant in Tests outside Asia when they picked Wriddhiman Saha for Adelaide. Was he just a horses-for-courses pick because the pink ball was expected to do more, and thus call for a more accomplished, pure wicketkeeper? Does Saha's miss of a tough chance from Marnus Labuschagne defeat that logic? Has Saha left the door open for Pant, who has fallen out of favour with India in all formats, to make a comeback?
Shami's replacement
Though the BCCI is yet to officially confirm that Shami has been ruled out of the remainder of the tour, it is understood that he has fractured his forearm and will not be taking any further part. No replacement has been named yet, and there are three extra bowlers on the tour: T Natarajan, Kartik Tyagi and Shardul Thakur. While the competition for a spot in the XI should ideally be between Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini, it is always difficult to guess something when it comes to India's team management.
In a rare scenario, if the pitch miraculously happens to be spin-friendly, India could think of playing Jadeja as Shami's replacement to go with six specialist batsmen. That move is highly unlikely because defensive moves and playing for draws rarely work in Test cricket, but it can't be ruled out as an option either.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo