OPINION

ICC rule open to exploitation

Australia's Pat Cummins celebrates with his teammates after dismissing Rohit Sharma. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Australia's Pat Cummins celebrates with his teammates after dismissing Rohit Sharma. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

India deserves huge praise for its magnificent fightback to secure a draw against the odds in the third Test at the SCG.

The Indians rode their luck and were helped by sloppy Australian fielding, but they used a controversial International Cricket Council substitution rule to their advantage.

The rule should be reviewed because it is open to exploitation.

Once a player is subbed out, he should take no further part in the match. And if a keeper is hurt, one of the remaining 10 fit players should take the gloves with only a fielder allowed as a replacement.

Rishabh Pant had been unable to fulfil his duties as India's wicketkeeper in Australia's second innings after being struck on the elbow while batting.

Under a revised ICC rule instituted almost three years ago, Pant was replaced by Wriddhiman Saha, whose glovework is far superior.

But by the final day Pant, the preferred keeper in the past two Tests because of his ability with the bat, had recovered sufficiently to be pushed up the order to No. 5.

The dashing left-hander produced a scintillating counter-attack in partnership with an equally-determined Cheteshwar Pujara, taking the initiative away from the Australians and daring the tourists to dream of an unlikely victory.

When Pant fell three short of a much-deserved century and then Pujara was dismissed soon after with the new ball, Australia appeared set to go 2-1 up in the series.

But an injured Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin showed great concentration and skill in blunting a tiring Australian attack, setting up the fourth Test at the Gabba as the decider for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

The ban on injured batsmen being allowed a runner is also worth revisiting.

Vihari clearly tore his hamstring going for a quick run and should have been allowed a runner.

Had that been permitted the Indians might have pulled off an impossible victory, given how many runs they had to give up.

The tourists have shown plenty of courage in this series, but it is taking a heavy toll.

Vihari and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja joined their growing injury list in Sydney and will not play in the final Test.

Pacemen Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav succumbed to injury in the first two Tests and they are without the services of established stars Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma.

Losing Jadeja, who dislocated and fractured his left thumb while fending at a rising delivery from Mitchell Starc in India's first innings at the SCG, was a huge blow.

On the first day Jadeja was surprisingly used only sparingly by captain Ajinkya Rahane on a pitch which seemed ideal for his whippy, left-arm finger spinners.

But the following day he showed his class by starting a dramatic Australian batting collapse, taking 4-62 from 18 overs and finishing the innings with a brilliant run out of Smith.

With Jadeja unable to bowl in Australia's second innings, too much responsibility fell on the fatigued pair of Jasprit Bumrah and Ashwin, with Mohammed Siraj in only his second Test and Navdeep Saini on debut.

Jadeja returned from injury to play a key role in the Indians' victory in Melbourne, contributing 57 with the bat and taking three vital wickets to support the pacemen and Ashwin.

Adding to India's frustrations were the claims of racial abuse against Bumrah and Siraj from a small section of the SCG crowd.

If these allegations are true, police and relevant authorities should act and send a powerful message to the perpetrators.

TOO RELIANT ON LABUSCHAGNE, SMITH

The reliance on Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith to make the bulk of Australia's runs remains a concern.

Labuschagne has been Australia's most consistent batsmen again and cashed in on a slow SCG pitch and a depleted Indian attack, although he would be disappointed not to have reached the three-figure mark this summer.

After three failures in the opening two Tests, Smith delivered in emphatic fashion.

He became the first Australian to score a ton this summer, and followed that up with 81 in the second innings on his home ground.

But the rest of the batting was a mixed bag. Will Pucovski was impressive on debut, riding his luck on the way to 62 in the first innings and copping a good ball in the second.

But I'm not sure about the young Victorian's best spot in the order. My belief is that he will find his niche at No. 4 or No. 5 eventually.

Pucovski's footwork is good against the spinners and his defence solid. He was composed and looked to score at every opportunity.

Hopefully he will be available to play in the final Test after injuring his shoulder while fielding in India's second innings.

Back at No. 5, Matthew Wade failed twice and his long-term viability as a middle-order batsman must be called into question, given he has an average of just over 30 in 34 Tests.

Cameron Green's swashbuckling 84 in the second innings should give him enormous confidence as he finds his feet at this level.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas