Ashwin remains doubtful as Shastri demands openers step up

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Shastri revealed Ashwin is racing the clock to be ready for the crunch Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, where the stakes are high in the four-Test series. The venue for the third Test MCG has of late come under scrutiny after recent drab draws blowing off the excitement of the Test cricket. He has been in good form as he claimed a five-wicket haul on his return to the field during the Ranji Trophy match between Mumbai and Baroda and then backed it up with a defiant innings with the bat.

India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin remains in doubt for the Melbourne Cricket Ground test beginning Wednesday while left-arm off-spinning allrounder Ravindra Jadeja is also carrying a minor injury. "If he is 80% fit here (Melbourne), he will play", said Shastri.

Despite having a 19-member squad, India have a lot of problems to deal with and are juggling to find the right combination. "When he came here, he felt some stiffness, and he felt that in India as well but he played domestic cricket after that", Shastri said. They will have to pick chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav. "Still felt stiff in the shoulder, and he was injected again and it takes time to settle".

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"We'll have to evaluate [his] fitness over a 24-hour period and take it one step from there, and also [assess] the conditions", Shastri said.

Shastri hit back at those in India who had criticised the non-selection of Jadeja when Ashwin was unavailable. "He was thereby declared fit by the BCCI and selected for the Test series against Australia".

"Fortunately we've probably got the best bowling attack in the world so that looks after itself a little bit, but I think as batters a patience game will be the key and run rates won't be as quick as what you'd like, but that's the way it will be".

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"With a Boxing Day Test and being from Victoria.it's going to have to be cut off, I think! For this reason, he was not considered for selection for the 2nd Test match".

But the opening pair of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay have struggled for runs and Shastri said that needed to change. Responsibility and accountability has to be taken by the top order. Dhawan had a poor outing in England and South Africa earlier this year and was subsequently dropped for the two match test series against West Indies at home.

All-rounder Hardik Pandya, uncapped opener Mayank Agarwal and batsman Rohit Sharma are all options for India to consider.

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