‘Panic’: India’s bombshell selection
India have ruled out Ravichandran Ashwin for the Boxing Day Test with the star offspinner yet to fully recover from his abdominal strain.
Team management confirmed the news on the eve of the third Test against Australia.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja is firming to play at the MCG while pace-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya is also in the mix.
Jadeja was ruled out for the first two Tests after having injections in his shoulder but is expected to prove his fitness.
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.
With the current series tied at 1-1, Indian skipper Virat 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.
"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."
India pulled the extraordinary move to drop both KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, after the openers handed in less than impressive performances in the opening two Tests of the series.
Hanuma Vihari looks the batsman who will be elevated to the top of the order while Mayank Agarwal will make his Test debut.
Australia have recalled all-rounder Mitch Marsh for the Test, dropping struggling batsman Peter Handscomb.
It is the second time in as many years Handscomb has been dropped two Tests into the summer, with Marsh's part-time 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.
Paine added it's likely the Aussies will "need his bowling at some stage" during the Test in the warm conditions in Melbourne.
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 (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah