Gill or Shaw? Saha or Pant? Ashwin or Siraj? Who'll India pick for pink ball Test?
While India's playing XI looks way more settled than that of Australia, there are these three questions to answer for the Indian team management as the team gears up for its second-ever D/N test match.
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Gill or Shaw?
With Rohit Sharma still recovering from his hamstring strain, the biggest question facing the Indian team management is to pick the opening partner of Mayank Agarwal, who has done a terrific job in the role since being called midway for the test series Down Under a couple of years ago.
Agrawal will have good memories of that series and would want to replicate the success he achieved on his maiden international tour.
For the role of his opening partner, India have four batsmen whom they can consider. Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill are the leading contenders while they also have the options of KL Rahul, who has been recalled to the side in the absence of Rohit Sharma and has been in red-hot form over the last couple of years.
The other left-field option which they have is Hanuma Vihari, who opened the batting for the team on their last tour of Australia. Although he did not get a lot of runs, he looked solid and made sure to take the shine off the new ball.
However, it is highly unlikely that India would go with Vihari or even KL Rahul, who was not given a look-in in the practice matches. Hence, the race is between Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw.
Here, it needs to be emphasized that Prithvi Shaw is the incumbent Indian opener and was in possession of the spot on their last test tour to New Zealand. However, Shaw could not do well in that series. But then, no Indian batsman looked equipped enough to face the seaming and swinging ball on the green surfaces of New Zealand.
Prithvi Shaw boarded the flight to Australia slightly ahead of Shubman Gill in the race. However, the way the two practice matches have panned out, things have flipped.
Interestingly, both the openers scored a blob in their first innings of the first practice match. While Gill improved progressively with scores of 29, 43 and 65, Shaw looked a bit unsure with scores of 19, 40 and 0.
Keeping the runs on one side and going by how they looked at the crease, India are likely to go with Shubman Gill. The reason why the team has been backing Prithvi Shaw is because his game is similar to that of Virender Sehwag. Shaw does not shy away from playing his shots and can take the attack to the opposition. On his day, he can change the face of the game within one session.
However, there is an increasing conception that he plays too many shots which is not ideal for an opener when the ball is swinging and seaming. Shubman Gill is a batsman in a more classical mould and has the propensity to leave deliveries outside the off stump. He also does not slash hard at the ball and allows the ball to come to him and has a much better back foot game than Prithvi Shaw. Shaw has also been found out against the short ball in the last few matches.
Saha or Pant?
Another question which the team management will have to answer is the choice of their wicket-keeper batsman. After Wriddhiman Saha returned following a long injury layoff, the team has had a policy of playing him in the Indian subcontinent which is where the wicket-keeper is required to stand up to the stumps quite often.
However, where the keeper has to stand back to the stumps more often than not, with pace bowlers in action through the majority of the innings, Rishabh Pant has been preferred. There is little doubt that Pant has more batting ability than Wriddhiman Saha and can take the game forward, which he showed with an explosive century against Australia A in the pink ball practice match.
Ashwin or Siraj?
Most would say that Ravichandran Ashwin is the obvious choice for India given that Ravindra Jadeja is not fully fit. However, teams in the past have gone with a four-prong pace attack in pink ball test matches, and with impressive results.
The biggest reason behind this is that a lot of grass is left on the pitch and the pace bowlers are bound to get more assistance under lights. The spinners also find it a bit tough to grip the pink ball due to the excessive lacquer on it.
However, given that there may arise occasions when the Indian bowlers have to play the holding role and with India likely to go in with just four specialist bowlers, it is advisable to play one spinner who can hold one end up in the first innings and become a more attacking option as the game moves forward.
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