Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma (PTI)
Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma (PTI)

As Team India is gearing up for the first Test match starting on December 26, the discussions on playing XI have been taken the centre stage.

Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli has always been a firm believer of 5 bowling options in his Test XI, more so in overseas conditions. In Pataudi Trophy against England, he stuck with this theory to play with four pacers throughout the series. However, he faced heavy criticism for leaving Ashwin out in all four Test matches.

Shardul Thakur Photo: AFP.
Shardul Thakur Photo: AFP.

But Jadeja’s absence this time around would make things slightly tricky for the team management as the all-rounder suffered a forearm injury which ruled him out for the Test series. For the past few years, Jadeja has been India’s go-to man for all conditions as his amazing batting form provided India with a good batting depth.

Will they trust Ashwin to bat at 7 in these challenging conditions? The premier off-spinner has decent batting numbers in 2019 as he famously saved the Sydney Test forming a partnership with Hanuma Vihari. He also scored a hundred against England in Chennai.

For the fourth seamer’s slot, Shardul Thakur is a frontrunner to take up that role as he played some crucial cameos in England. Mumbai all-rounder also scored a fifty in the famous win at the Gabba earlier this year.

Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source: GETTY IMAGE

R Ashwin is likely to bat at no.7

Former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad also backed Thakur to take up the all-rounder’s role.

“I think Shardul Thakur is the best choice if they go in with five bowlers as he also gives the option of a steady No.7 batter and we also have Ravichandran Ashwin,” MSK Prasad told PTI.

“Four bowlers in this line-up are now confirmed if all fit- Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ashwin, and Mohammad Siraj, I don’t think, Ishant will be considered ahead of Siraj on current form,” he added further.

Prasad also pointed out that bowlers might get tired in Centurion because it’s situated 1300 meters above sea level.

“I remember once we had a tournament in Nairobi when I played. On the first day of the training, we could barely complete a round of Nairobi Gymkhana as we were completely out of breath due to the altitude leave of Nairobi city. After a couple of days, the body got used to it.” he added further.

MSK Prasad. (Photo Source: Twitter)
MSK Prasad. (Photo Source: Twitter)

However, India’s biggest puzzle will be to pick one out of Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari. Rahane’s form of late hasn’t been great but the team management might be tempted to give him another go for his experience. Iyer made a terrific test debut at Kanpur but there are question marks over his ability to counter high-quality pace bowling.

Hanuma Vihari also presented his case strongly with 3 fifties in the series against South Africa last month.

India’s likely XI combination:
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), One of Ajinkya Rahane/Shreyas Iyer/ Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), R Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammad Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah

Also Read: “Virat Kohli Will Still Be Contributing In Some Leadership Form”- Tim Southee