Aussies to hit Boxing Day full of confidence
India has hit the panic button for Boxing Day and Aussie captain Tim Paine is ready to drop the hammer at the MCG declaring his side is only getting better.
Paine was adamant dropping Peter Handscomb from the team that secured his first Test victory as captain in Perth wouldn't kill the momentum the home team gained from that success.
Unconvinced the grass on the MCG wicket would be the answer to everyone's prayers, Paine said the bowling Mitch Marsh provided, with baking heat on its way, would be crucial to going 2-1 up in the series.
The tourists made three changes for the match, dropping both openers from the opening two Tests, bringing in first-gamer Mayank Agarwal to bat at the top along with Rohit Sharma who missed the second match.
After being panned for not playing a spinner in Perth, left-armer Ravindra Jadeja has been named with star off-spinner Ravi Ashwin failing to overcome an abdominal issue.
With the raft of changes for India, and all the momentum with the home team, the Aussie are quietly confident control of the series has turned their way.
But Paine said his young outfit was in no position to do anything other than improve, ball by ball, session by session, and continue to seize the advantage.
"I don't feel like we are on top of them. We feel like we are getting better every Test," Paine said after a searching Christmas Day net session.
"And certainly when you have an inexperienced playing group, when you get a big win like we did in Perth against the number one team in the world, guys are going to grow with confidence and come to Melbourne feeling a bit better than we did when he went to Perth.
"We feel we are improving every game., but we know we need to keep stacking up good days and good hours of Test cricket and if we can do that for another four or five days, come day five we think we'll be right in the thick of it again."
Paine said the changes India made didn't bother the Aussies, with all their squad members having been studied.
He also downplayed the idea of a continued head to head, on-field, with his opposite number Virat Kohli after their numerous encounters in Perth, and with the prospect of a boisterous Indian crowd filling the MCG stands.
"If you need a crowd to get you up for a Test match, there is something wrong. And I don't think Virat will," Paine said.
"He's a world class player and from what I have seen he is up for the contest regardless of who is watching or up in the stands. I don't think that will change a hell of a lot about how either team will go about it."
While the heat and bowler workload was a factor in bringing in Marsh, talks about the pitch has turned troubling. Paine said the covering of grass could potentially be covering another flat MCG track.
"I don't think it will play drastically different to what it has played in the last few years. It does look a little bit different, but as we said in Perth, looks can be deceiving at times," Paine said.
"The grass here can be deceiving. We've got a few Victorians in our camp and they have said it's looked worse than it has played at times."
Kohli hoped there would be enough in the pitch to keep the bowlers "interested" all five days.
"Hopefully it's a much more lively wicket than the last time we played here," he said.
In 2014, despite a second innings Australian declaration, the Test finished in a draw, after Kohli made 169 in the first innings.
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