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Whom does Kohli replace and the future value in Bharat, Siraj

Last updated on 30 Nov 2021 | 09:23 PM
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Whom does Kohli replace and the future value in Bharat, Siraj

India have some selection calls to take ahead of the Mumbai Test with a tricky situation around making way for skipper Virat Kohli

After a thrilling Test match in Kanpur, the series moves to Mumbai. The last time New Zealand played Test cricket there was in 1988. It also happens to be the last time the Kiwis won a Test match on Indian soil. 

More often than not, India have some selection conundrums to resolve, owing to their depth, form, injuries, rotations and other reasons. It is no different this time around as well. 

Who makes way for Kohli?

Virat Kohli’s return for the Mumbai Test is written in stone unless there is an unfortunate last-minute injury. Assured that there is no such instance in store, someone will have to make way for the skipper. There are a few candidates and everyone offers merits and demerits to be the unfortunate pick. 

Mayank Agarwal’s return to Test cricket left a lot to desire. He showed his class in patches but was exploited around the off-stump. While that is natural to an opener, Mayank’s overall numbers have taken a hit. He averages 17.2 in 13 innings since his career-best of 243 in 2019. 

However, Mayank’s omission will require an overhaul in the batting order. Wasim Jaffer, in a discussion with ESPNCricinfo, has provided a surprising solution of opening with Wriddhiman Saha. Assuming that doesn’t happen, Cheteshwar Pujara, the number three batter can be pushed to open too. Something similar has happened before. In fact, it has happened with current head coach Rahul Dravid in a pivotal role. A renowned number three batter, Dravid never hesitated to open when required. In such scenarios, VVS Laxman happily took the number three slot. We will have the same situation if India take this route - Pujara opens with Gill, Ajinkya Rahane at three, Virat Kohli at four. 

Pujara, though, has similar issues like that of Mayank, around his off-stump. He averages 30.9 this year, a number that falls to 24.9 against pace. 

On cricketing logic alone, a captain for captain swap between Kohli and Rahane makes most sense. Rahane averages a shocking 19.6 in 2021. In fact, Rahane has averaged above 40 only once in a year since 2017 which underlines the length of the time rope he has enjoyed. Also, no further changes are required in the batting order if Rahane faces the axe. But, Dravid’s words of trust in Rahane after the first Test suggests the vice-captain will get another chance. In addition, the need for experience on the upcoming tour of South Africa works in the case of both Rahane and Pujara. 

Shreyas Iyer is the fourth option. But benching the Player of the Match of the last game, who bailed out the side from tricky situations twice won’t be fair. If there is one batsman who has truly earned to play the second Test then it is him. 

Will Bharat get his maiden Test cap?

Kona Srikar Bharat impressed one and all with his wicketkeeping as a substitute in the Kanpur Test. His inclusion in the Playing XI for Mumbai is subjected to Saha’s fitness. However, there is a definite value in preferring Bharat irrespective of the stiffness in Saha’s neck.

At 28, Bharat is nine years younger than Saha and holds future potential as a back-up to Rishabh Pant. Moreover, with a strong performance in Tests, he can also establish his career as a specialist batsman. Saha showed his mettle with the bat in Kanpur but Bharat can be an investment for the future, especially for overseas tours. 

Siraj over Ishant? 

If Bharat gets the nod over Saha then why not also consider the case of Mohammed Siraj over Ishant Sharma. Ishant has been a workhorse for India but the current season has raised doubts over the fitness of the 33-year old. The right-arm pacer was not at his best on the England tour due to his fitness, he did the least amount of bowling in both the innings bowling 15 and seven overs respectively. 

Ishant suffered a finger injury on the last day of the Kanpur Test. With a quick turnaround between the two Tests, it might not be easy for Ishant to recover. The year 2021 has been a testimony to Siraj’s improvement as an all-format bowler. He merits future potential as well that makes him a strong contender to play in Mumbai. 

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