Former head coach Ravi Shastri feels that Indian team should play to its strength and include both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the playing eleven against Australia in the upcoming World Test Championship final at the Oval, next month.
Under Shastri’s coaching, Indian team won a Test match at the Oval in 2021 but it was largely due to performance of India’s pace attack comprising Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur apart from a classy hundred by the then vice-captain Rohit Sharma.
Picking his XI for the marquee WTC Final, Shastri felt the void left by Bumrah will hurt India’s chances and they should counter it by picking another spinner to accommodate for the lack of quicks.
”India did very well in England last time round because you had Bumrah, you had Shami, you had Shardul Thakur, and you had Mohammed Siraj,” Shastri said in ICC Review.
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“So you had four fast bowlers. One being an all-rounder there, Shardul.
”That combination is a very good combination in England. Especially from India’s point of view. It allows someone like Rohit Sharma to control the game far better. At times in England, you need to slow it down as well. And suddenly it can get overcast,” he explained.
For Shastri, it is important to pick players as per conditions and current form. Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are a couple of years older and might be a few yards slower compared to 2021.
”You have got horses for courses, you’ve got all bases covered. But then if the quality is not good in your fast-bowling attack. If you think the guys are older, they are not as quick as they used to be, and the form is a little doubtful, then you play that second spinner because Ashwin is quality, as is Jadeja.” Fresh from playing in the IPL, fitness would be a big concern for the pacers as will be the fickle English weather, Shastri feels.
India have three spin options in their squad, with experienced Ashwin and No.1 ranked all-rounder Jadeja joined in the 15-player squad by Axar Patel, who can be his like-for-like replacement if need be.
Shastri thinks the option is there for India to select Ashwin as the only specialist spinner and use Jadeja to bat at No 6 should the pitch at The Oval look like it will offer some turn during the later stages.
”If the track is hard and dry, you would want two spinners to play for sure,” Shastri said.
”I think it goes a lot with the weather in England. I believe it’s sunny now at the moment, but you know, English weather, how it can change in the month of June.
”So there’s a very good chance India will go with two spinners, two fast bowlers and an all-rounder. That will be the combination. And then there’ll be five batsmen and the wicket-keeper, so six batsmen.
“So if all conditions stay normal at The Oval, then this would be my combination, but you’ve got to have the quality to be able to put those guys out in the park.” As for batting, Shubman Gill will become an automatic choice to partner skipper Rohit Sharma at top in absence of the injured KL Rahul.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli will walk out at No 3 and No 4 respectively, while the door has opened for Ajinkya Rahane to make a return to a No 5 spot.
Excited about the return of Rahane, Shastri said the 34-year-old had earned his place in the WTC Final.
”The way he’s (Rahane) timed the ball, the way he’s looking at T20 from a different perspective. He’s not looking at the number of runs, he’s looking at the number of balls he’s playing as against that. What is the strike rate with those number of balls he’s played, which is good and which augurs well,” Shastri said of Rahane.
”It just goes to show (what happens) when you go through the grind, you go back to domestic cricket. He’s earned his place in that World Test Championship side. Now you’ll have to see closer to the event what the final XI will be.” Shastri further stressed the need for batting focus, citing the mentality of the 2021 touring party. ”The application is the key in English conditions, as opposed to Australia, India, you need to apply yourself everywhere,” he said.
”That opening partnership between Rahul and Rohit Sharma was fabulous. You know, the discipline, the patience that is needed to counter English conditions is the need of the hour.
”In England, in particular, the leaving game becomes very important.” In his choice of playing XI, Shastri has picked keeper-batter Kona Bharat ahead of batter-keeper Ishan Kishan.
As for Australia, it’s a no-brainer Shastri felt.
“They’ll go with one spinner (Nathan Lyon), Cameron Green the all-rounder, (and) three fast bowlers (Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood),” Shastri added.
Shastri India XI Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wk), Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj.