India vs England 4th Test Preview: With an eye on WTC final, Kohli's men gear up for another trial by spin
England are already out of contention for the World Test Championship final but can spoil India's party if they beat the hosts in the final match to pave the way for Australia.
Pitch, the elephant in the room
From the second test match onwards, most of the conversation in the series has centred around the pitch and how much it has spun. Not going into the details of that discussion, it has been heartening to see that there haven't been complaints made from within the England setup.
Whether the pitches offered are fit or unfit for test cricket is a different discussion but if the opposition team is so rattled by it that it starts presenting that excuse even in public, then it becomes very difficult for them to win. England have been able to restrain themselves on that front, which is a sign in the right direction for Joe Root's team.
After winning the first test match of the series handsomely, they still have an opportunity of drawing level if they manage to eke out a victory in the final match of the series, which will be a satisfying enough result for the visitors.
Another turner ready to be dished out in Ahmedabad
Despite all that has been said and written about the pitch on the outside, the strip for the last match of the series is not expected to be any different from the one in the 3rd test. However, given that this match will be played with the red ball as opposed to the pink one and as per conventional timings, it is expected to last longer.
But then, when you are just coming on the back of the shortest test match since 1935, that is certainly something you can guarantee. Hopefully, England won't go in with four pace bowling options on a turning track this time around!
Fit-again Umesh Yadav to replace Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah has been granted leave for the final test match of the series due to personal reasons. While it may be seen as a big loss for India, it is hard to call it that after the pacer sent down just six overs in the last test match.
Moreover, India have an able option in Umesh Yadav who is up and running after recovering from a calf injury which he picked up on the India tour of Australia. Umesh did the hard yards in the National Cricket Academy and managed to recover just in time for the second half of the test series.
While his overall average is marginally over 30 in test cricket, Yadav is a different beast altogether in home conditions. In the 731 overs that he has bowled in India, Umesh has bagged 96 wickets at 24.54 while bowling at a strike rate of 35.74. His numbers in India over the last two years are even more impressive.
The second change that India may or may not make concerns Washington Sundar's spot. Sundar scored a duck in the only opportunity he got to bat in the last match and got to bowl only four balls, from which he picked up one wicket.
The Indian team management is considering bringing in Kuldeep Yadav who can provide India with a lot more variety in the bowling attack. It may be a left-field move but do not rule out India playing an extra batsman, perhaps Hardik Pandya, to give themselves a few extra runs lower down the order. As it is, you hardly need five bowlers on these spinning tracks.
Bess and one of Wood or Stone likely
England have a couple of concerns in their batting line-up with Jonny Bairstow and Ollie Pope not having looked good in the last test. However, they are unlikely to go back to either Rory Burns or Dan Lawrence for the last test.
Jofra Archer is expected to be benched with either Olly Stone or Mark Wood taking his place. Dominic Bess will almost certainly return to the playing XI after being dropped, some would say unfairly, for the third test match. This can see Stuart Broad lose his place in the XI.
No matter how much Team India denies it, they will have one enticing thought in the back of their mind: win and the WTC final awaits.
Here are the probable playing XIs:
India - Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Kuldeep Yadav/Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav
England - Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (wk), Olly Stone/Mark Wood, Jack Leach, Dominic Bess, James Anderson
© Cricket World 2021