India’s Test Squad: More Questions Than Answers

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India recently announced their Test squad to take on Sri Lanka in the upcoming three match Test series. Murali Vijay was included in the squad at the expense of Abhinav Mukund, while Axar Patel made way for the returning Ravichandran Ashwin. With the return of Vijay to the squad, India will have to once again consider who should open for them. Interestingly, there are five seamers in India’s Test squad, a rather bold move given the flat nature of subcontinent pitches. At this early stage it is hard to tell whether this is designed to give their seamers more practise ahead of their tour to South Africa, or if indeed the pitches will actually assist fast bowling. India will go into the series as the firm favourites and it is unlikely that this Sri Lanka side will cause them too many problems.

India’s Test Squad: More Questions Than Answers

Confusion Over Virat Kohli’s Availability

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There has been lots of speculation that Virat Kohli will miss the entire series, but so far none of this has actually been confirmed. India’s chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, conceded that it is likely Kohli will miss some of the series, but thoroughly ruled out the idea that Kohli wouldn’t feature in any of the Tests. Instead, he cited that India’s rotation policy would also apply to their captain, which could see Ajinkya Rahane captaining India for some Tests. The news of Kohli’s absence has drawn a range of emotions from fans, with some sympathising with the intense burdens he has had to endure, but others compared it to Shakib Al-Hasan’s bizarre decision not to play in South Africa. It is unlikely that his absence would alter the outcome of the series drastically and it could give others a chance to stake a claim for the Test side. 

Will Lokesh Rahul Open?

Over the past calendar year, Lokesh Rahul has been India’s third highest Test run scorer. He has scored an impressive 780 runs in 15 innings, at a very healthy average of 55.71. However, he will find his position under threat with the return of Murali Vijay to the squad. Vijay has been India’s first choice Test opener for several years now, and Australia’s tour of India saw Rahul partnering Vijay at the top of India’s batting line-up. Since then, though, Shikhar Dhawan has had a prolific few months, where he piled on the runs against Sri Lanka and even looked good in the limited overs series. It could be the case that Rahul is completely overlooked and India opt for the opening partnership of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. If this is the case, there is still a chance for Rahul to slot into the side as a middle or lower order batsman. In my opinion, India should open with Rahul and Dhawan for the First Test and see how this pair fares before bringing in Murali Vijay.

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Axar Patel’s Wait Continues
Axar Patel was included in India’s Test squad when Ravindra Jadeja was suspended, but he did not get a chance to play. It seems that his wait to make his first Test appearance will continue as he has been omitted from India’s Test squad yet again. Moreover, Patel has struggled to get a spot in India’s limited overs side, with the wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal being favoured ahead of him. Axar now finds himself being India’s fourth choice Test spinner, as Kuldeep retained his place in India’s squad. There have been lots of critics claiming that this signifies an end to Axar’s possible Test career and that he has missed his window of opportunity to play for India’s Test side. While this is too strong a statement, Axar may now have to wait until Ashwin and Jadeja retire before he is considered as one of India’s frontline spinners.

The Shock of Five Seamers

It is hardly controversial to say that the strength of India’s bowling attack lies in their spinners. Jadeja is the second best spinner in the world, according to the ICC Test rankings, with Ashwin slotting in at number four. A key part of their success is the spin-friendly conditions in India, with pitches turning heavily as early as the second day. This, however, is to the detriment of their seamers who struggle to find any assistance from the pitch in the gruelling heat. Therefore, it was surprising to see India having a full battery of five seamers in their squad. It is most likely that India will be rotating each of their seamers frequently and trying to gauge who their best attack is before they travel to South Africa, where their seamers will play a much greater role. To a certain extent, India are merely using Sri Lanka as a warm up for the real challenge that will come later on this year.

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