As the Indian team does not have enough options due to a plethora of injuries, it will have another concern in selecting the playing XI for the opening test against England, with longtime warhorse Ishant Sharma facing stiff competition from newcomer Mohammed Siraj. The Indian team had their first of the three practice sessions available on Tuesday and going through the traditional Chepauk wicket that normally assists the spinners, India could go with two pacers and three spinners for the opener from February 5-9.
“The field is a typical Chepauk wicket. No English feel or anything. In this dampness you need to have grass on the wicket so that it doesn’t break up so easily. This wicket helps spinners as it always has been,” a source said. BCCI, which follows developments, to PTI on condition of anonymity.
All eyes will be on the troika of head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and last but not least, skipper Virat Kohli, to make a strong appeal to who will partner with pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.
Bumrah, who missed the final test against Australia in Brisbane due to a groin strain, is fit and available to lead the pace attack.
However, there are questions about 32-year-old veteran Ishant who has been out of red ball cricket for nearly a year. On the other hand, Siraj is in red-hot form, having picked 13 wickets in three Tests, including a five-wicket draw in Brisbane.
As for Ishant, he has only recently made a comeback in competitive cricket, having played four Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy matches, throwing a total of 14.1 overs.
Over the next two days, it is expected that bowling coach Arun will take a call after checking on the two bowlers in question.
The second call could be a bit more difficult, as there’s an in-form Washington Sundar and an Orthodox left-arm spinner Axar Patel, with senior off-break bowler Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm wrist spinner Kuleep Yadav.
Washington is the man in form who has hit half a century and racked up four wickets on his debut, but his presence would mean two identical bowlers, even though there is a huge difference in quality.
Axar is also a very handy mid-range batsman, except he’s an equal substitute for Ravindran Jadeja.
Hardik Pandya will start training from Wednesday
All-rounder Hardik Pandya’s quarantine ends Wednesday morning and he will participate in the team training. Pandya, who is back on the Test team after a long hiatus, joined his colleagues a day late after settling a personal matter.
While Pandya may not appear in the opener, he is expected to increase his workload in bowling, taking into account the World Test Championship final and the five-game Test series in England.
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