Why are India holding back Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mayank Agarwal?
Trio hasn't played long-form cricket since March, and weren't included in the XI for the second T20I either
The touring Indians ended day one of their three-day warm-up against Australia A at the Drummoyne Oval at 237 for 8, with healthy contributions from Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. But ESPNcricinfo takes a look at some other takeaways from the tour game before the Test series starts on December 17.
T20I > Test warm-up
Touring teams often complain these days that they hardly get decent opposition during tour games, which makes them less preferable to intense training sessions within the team. This Australia A side, though, was way better than just decent. It included Test captain Tim Paine, regulars Travis Head and Joe Burns, squad members James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Michael Neser and Cameron Green, and also Jackson Bird, good enough to walk into this Indian side as the third seamer.
However, India chose not to release any of the Test players in their T20I squad though none of them has played multi-days cricket since March. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mayank Agarwal didn't even feature in the second T20I at the SCG. It is not like they were overworked: Agarwal and one out of Bumrah and Shami had missed each of India's last two limited-overs internationals.
Navdeep Saini, who had two disappointing ODIs before being dropped, could have used this opportunity to stake a claim for the format experts feel he is best suited to, especially at a time when India are scrambling for a third seamer in Ishant Sharma's absence.
Not sparing KL Rahul is understandable with an international series there for the taking, but could India have given one or two of the other Test regulars game time instead of them just sitting and watching a T20 international?
Ducks for both openers
Though it is assumed that Agarwal is a lock in the opening role, there are question marks over who his partner will be. The incumbent Prithvi Shaw has had an ordinary year throughout, although that included only three first-class matches before this one. His IPL form might be in a completely different format, but he now has four ducks in his last seven innings. More than just the score though, what will worry India is the shot he played to get out today: a nothing push to a wide delivery, which even when middled wouldn't have fetched a run. That is nothing but a recipe for disaster against the new ball in Australia.
His competitor by the looks of it, Shubman Gill, faced only one delivery which seamed back in to take a healthy inside edge onto the pad only to be ballooned for a catch to slip. It wasn't what anyone would call a bad shot, but he didn't bat long enough to see what kind of form he is in. In theory, there are three more innings left before the first Test for both Shaw and Gill to impress the team management.
Hanuma Vihari ahead of Rahane
Rahane will - by virtue of being appointed vice-captain - lead India once regular captain Virat Kohli leaves for paternity leave after the first Test. That makes his form further more important after starting his last few series with a question mark over his place in the side. He began nervously, playing and missing and even edging the medium-pacer Mark Steketee, but got into his work even as wickets fell at the other end. Whenever he got the opportunity, he transferred the pressure back by punishing every loose ball. The short delivery asked a few questions of him even when he was set, but overall the unbeaten 108 will lend him good confidence going into the Tests.
However, there was another possible pointer: he didn't promote himself to No. 4 in Kohli's absence. Usually you see batsmen go one position up when someone is missing, but the Indians instead promoted Vihari for this game. Possibly Rahane is comfortable with his No. 5 spot with Vihari moving above him once Kohli leaves, leaving the No. 6 for one of Gill, Rahul or even Rohit Sharma to grab.
Leg gully for Pujara
Australia's Test captain Paine would have started getting déjà vu of the disconcerting sight of Pujara's backside as he got into his usual attempt to grind out the bowling: 167 balls for his 69. However, this time there were slightly funky fields in place to test out certain plans: leg gully at first followed by silly mid-on later. Then something rare happened: a well-set Pujara fell against an Australian side without maximising the start when Pattinson had him gloving a short ball to leg gully. The short ball did trouble Pujara in New Zealand, but that is a side equipped with an attack - thanks to left-armer Neil Wagner - that can bother nearly anyone with the short ball. Do watch out, though, for the leg gully if Pujara gets in during the Tests.
Wriddhiman Saha preferred to Rishabh Pant
Pant has been India's first-choice wicketkeeper in overseas Tests for his batting ability as well as because teams don't need the purest of wicketkeeping on pitches that don't turn. However, India chose to go with Saha in the tour game. This could change by the time the first Test arrives, though tour games have often been good indicators of what India intend to do in Tests. In New Zealand, for example, Pant batted ahead of Saha.
Be that as it may, Saha managed just a duck here, thanks to what seemed a dubious lbw call to an offspinner from around the wicket as the ball might have pitched outside leg.
Pattinson stakes a claim
Either through injury or due to plenty of fast-bowling riches, Pattinson having played only 21 matches so far is a loss to Test cricket. Among those who have taken at least 80 Test wickets, Pattinson's strike rate of 48.9 is No. 16. It is just that two men ahead of him are also part of the current Australian attack: Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. However, Starc has taken leave to tend to an illness in family and has not been in great form in the internationals so far this summer. If Starc doesn't make it to Adelaide, Pattinson has made a right claim to that spot with a three-for, including the wicket of a well-set Pujara.
Head captains Paine
It is interesting that Australia's Test captain Paine was on the field but was led by Head. An equivalent of that would be Vihari leading Kohli in a match. There is already talk of Australia grooming Head for a possible leadership role in the future, but in the here and the now, at some point in the series, Head and Matthew Wade might come under pressure from Green to even keep that middle-order position.
Green is a bowler who gets disconcerting bounce not much unlike Kyle Jamieson, who troubled India earlier in the year in New Zealand. However, Green's bowling workload is being micro-managed: spells no longer than four overs, not more than eight overs in a day. And Head himself made an audition for the role of a part-time - and the only - spinner in the Australia A XI today, bringing himself on to relieve the fast bowlers and even ending up with the wickets of Saha and Kuldeep Yadav.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo