As predicted, Australia has recalled all-rounder Mitch Marsh for the Boxing Day Test, dropping struggling batsman Peter Handscomb, as India makes a raft of changes after its heavy defeat in the second Test.
It is the second time in as many years Handscomb has been dropped two Tests into the summer, with Marsh’s ability to bowl seamers getting him the nod at the MCG.
“I’m sure Pete would be upset. I think he’s had conversations with the selectors that there’s a few things he needs to work on and Pete is open to that,” captain Tim Paine told reporters.
Meanwhile, India has responded to their loss to Australia in Perth by dropping both openers among three changes for Wednesday’s Test.
The tourists announced their XI on the eve of the third Test at the MCG, dropping KL Rahul and Murali Vijay as well as paceman Umesh Yadav.
Star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has again been ruled out, having not fully recovered from the abdominal strain that sidelined him in Perth.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja comes into the XI after missing the first two Tests, batsman Rohit Sharma has been recalled and Mayank Agarwal is set to make his debut.
Rahul and Murali, averaging 12.00 and 12.25 for the series respectively, had been under pressure to hold their spots with the series tied 1-1.
But the decision to axe both openers smacks of panic for an Indian side which has relied heavily on Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane for runs during the series.
Agarwal appears likely to open alongside Hanuma Vihari, who batted at No.6 in Perth but is considered well suited to moving up the order.
Jadeja was ruled out for the first two Tests after having injections in his shoulder but has since proven his fitness.
Pace-bowling allrounder Hardik Pandya joined the squad in Melbourne but has been overlooked, having played just one first-class game since September.
Last time the sides met in a Boxing Day fixture, a lifeless MCG pitch ensured there was no prospect of anything other than a draw.
Kohli was optimistic enough work had been done on the pitch to ensure a result.
“Seeing the pitch now, it has much more grass than it had last time,” Kohli told reporters prior to his team announcement.
“I hope that it’s a lively pitch. I hope that it does as much as it did in the first two games because as a side, you know you’re always in for a result that way.
“The surface, what I saw yesterday looked pretty dry underneath. There’s a good coverage of grass which should keep the surface intact.
“I think it should have enough for the bowlers to be interested on all days of the Test match and hopefully it’s a much more lively wicket than the last time we played here.”
AUSTRALIA XI: Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
INDIA XI: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah