Indian head coach Rahul Dravid has some big selection dilemmas ahead of him as he thinks of selecting India's best possible XI for the Test against England. Rohit Sharma testing positive for Coronavirus has further multiplied his selection issues.
The Indian Test squad which is gearing up to play the fifth Test against England is riddled with a few selection dilemmas. If finalising the all-rounder for the Test, and choosing the third fast bowler was not enough to give Indian head coach Rahul Dravid headaches, Indian captain Rohit Sharma getting infected by Coronavirus, has further multiplied India's problems. When the Indian selectors announced the Test squad they did not see this coming. And there are plenty of issues that have now cropped up. (Image: Reuters)
Who will be the captain? Firstly, if Rohit fails to be fit in time, who should captain the team in the Test? There are two and possibly three contenders to stake captaincy. The popular word on the street is that former Indian captain Virat Kohli should be handed the captaincy armband. After all, it was under him that the team had taken a 2-1 lead in the series before COVID-19 delayed the fifth Test. Kohli brings to the table plenty of leadership experience. The supporters of this idea believe that no player deserves to lift the Test series trophy, should India win it, more than Kohli. But will selectors burden Kohli with captaincy considering he has not scored a Test ton in over three years, and it was their decision in the first place to relieve Kohli from captaincy duties and make Rohit the captain in all three formats? The second contender for captaincy could be fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah. But Bumrah has never captained India before and would be expected to lead the bowling attack first rather than overlooking the whole team. Given the red-hot form that England batters are in, it would be wise to not make Bumrah the captain. The third name for captaincy is that of Ravichandran Ashwin but Ashwin has his own issues which shall be discussed below. (Image: Reuters)
Opening pair woes: Rohit's absence will also make the Indian camp think hard about who should walk open the Indian innings along with Shubhman Gill. Three options that India has to solve this issue are Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara and KS Bharat. Agarwal has been rushed to England and will hardly get time to acclimatize to the English conditions. If this is the line of thought then either Bharat or Pujara will open. But given foreign conditions and against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad it would be slightly risky to give Bharat his debut. But would it also be wise to promote Pujara up in the batting given that he has batted at no.3 for most of his career and has only recently got back in form after a prolonged lean patch?
Who bats at no.3? But it was Pujara's poor form at his favourite position that made him fly to England and grind his way back to form playing Sussex in Division Two of the County Championship. Meanwhile, India promoted Hanuma Vihari as a number three batter and gave Shreyas Iyer the Test debut. Vihari showed that he can bat up in the order as he scored fifty against Sri Lanka in March. And if Vihari is in the groove, he can salvage a draw. Remember Australia? Iyer on his part has played fairly well since his debut scoring 388 runs in four matches and averaging 55.42. But scoring runs in Indian conditions and tackling the English conditions are two very different things. Iyer is yet to play in a Test on overseas soil. So who should India back to bat at three? (Image: Reuters)
Will Ashwin get a spot in the playing XI? Ashwin's chances of playing the Test are slim, the question of him leading the side is a distant second. Ashwin warmed the bench in all four matches much to the surprise of fans and experts. Ashwin's repeated exclusion from the team gave rise to the popular joke that the next time Ashwin plays a Test, it would be for England and not India. Ashwin, along with Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur are three genuine all-rounders in the Indian squad. Given his exploits last year, Thakur has a very high chance to start. Should India opt to play Ashwin ahead of Jadeja who would be making a comeback after an injury layoff. But India could also be tempted to play both Ashwin and Jadeja after seeing England spinner Jack Leach's exploits against New Zealand.
Who shall accompany Bumrah and Shami as India's third fast bowler? Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are near certainty in India's playing XI. There will be a tussle between Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav to be the third fast bowler in India's playing XI. (Image: Reuters)