The Indian selectors have sensationally dropped both openers for the Boxing Day test against Australia, in a move described as "panic stations" by commentators.

The tourists lost a heated second test in Perth by 163 runs and head to Melbourne with the five-match series locked at 1-1.

After average performances with the bat in the first two tests, both KL Rahul and Murali Vijay have been given their marching orders with Hanuma Vihari likely to be elevated to the top of the order and Mayank Agarwal set for his test debut.

Umesh Yadav has also been omitted from the squad for the third test, while star offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been ruled out with an abdominal strain, Indian captain Virat Kohli confirmed.

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Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, caught up in an ugly spat with teammate Ishant Sharma during the Waca test, is firming to play at the MCG while pace-bowling allrounder Hardik Pandya is also in the mix, AAP reported.

Jadeja missed the first two tests due to a shoulder injury and was the 12th man in Perth when the pair was caught on TV cameras trading insults in Hindi.

Their heated conversation was later translated, with Sharma reportedly telling Jadeja: "I will shove your anger up you're a*** … don't talk bulls***."

Indian skipper Virat Kohli is expecting a lively Melbourne pitch. Photo / Getty
Indian skipper Virat Kohli is expecting a lively Melbourne pitch. Photo / Getty

Kohli, who was the subject of much criticism over his sledging of the Australians in the early parts of the series, was confident of a better result in Melbourne.

"Seeing the pitch now, it has much more grass than it had last time. 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," Kohli said.

"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."

Australia, meanwhile, has dropped struggling Peter Hanscomb and recalled allrounder Mitchell Marsh.

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Peter Handscomb has been dropped for the MCG after a lean run of form with the bat. Photo / Getty
Peter Handscomb has been dropped for the MCG after a lean run of form with the bat. Photo / Getty

"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 said.

Australia: Tim Paine (capt), Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.