Sydney, January 2: India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's availability for the fourth Test against Australia remains a doubt as he hasn't recovered completely from the groin strain he suffered in the series opener in Adelaide.
Ashwin missed the second and third Test in Perth and Melbourne, and is racing against time to try and prove his fitness for the SCG game. India will also be without Ishant Sharma, who has been left out of the 13-man squad. As per reports, Ishant has some discomfort in his left rib cage, hence he's excluded from the fourth Test.
Earlier, skipper Virat Kohli had categorically ruled Ashwin out of the fourth and final Test against Australia due to an ongoing abdominal issue.
However, the 32-year-old was later added to the 13-man squad by the team management, who added that a decision on him will be taken on the morning of the Test which starts on Thursday (January 3).
India name 13-man squad for SCG Test: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, H Vihari, R Pant, R Jadeja, K Yadav, R Ashwin, M Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav— BCCI (@BCCI) January 2, 2019
A decision on R Ashwin's availability will be taken on the morning of the Test #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/4Lji2FExU8
In case Ashwin fails the fitness test, Kohli talked up Vihari by crediting his bowling abilities on the eve of the SCG Test.
"It (Ashwin's absence) does make you alter your plans a little bit throughout the course of the series. But the fact that Vihari has bowled beautifully whenever we've given him the ball makes us absolutely calm about ashwin not getting to play. It is obviously a disappointment for us as a team and him, but if you see the way vihari has bowled, he's looked like picking up a wicket whenever he comes to bowl.
"He's pitching the ball in the right areas and we are looking at him as a solid bowling option, specially in this Test match because he's got pace on the ball, he puts in the effort and he's economical - that's all you need from a guy who will bowl 10-12 overs a day," Kohli said.
Kohli also revealed that Ashwin was disappointed at not being able to regain full fitness and that the spinner has been told what he needs to do get over his injury.
"It's unfortunate that he's had two niggles that are quite similar in the last couple of away tours," Kohli told reporters at the SCG on Wednesday (January 2). "It's something he will focus on to correct.
"The physio and trainer have spoken to him about what he has to do. He's very important in Test cricket, he's a vital part of the team. We need him to be 100 per cent fit.
"He's very disappointed he hasn't recovered in time."
Fellow spinner Ravindra Jadeja is expected to stay in the side following his exploits during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, where he claimed five wickets in the 137-run victory.
India's 13-man squad for SCG Test: Virat Kohli (C), A Rahane (VC), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, C Pujara, H Vihari, R Pant, R Jadeja, K Yadav, R Ashwin, M Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav