India began its tour down under with a loss in the first T20I match at Brisbane as Australia got home by 4 runs via DLS method. However, the biggest Test of the so-called ‘best traveling Indian side in the last 15 to 20 years’ will come in two weeks, when India will play the first of the four Tests from December 6.
That moniker to the Indian team was given to them by the current head coach Ravi Shastri, based on its two series wins in Sri Lanka and one in West Indies. However, India has failed to win a single series overseas against the SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia).
Former India spinner Murali Kartik feels India have covered all bases pretty well on this tour. “It is not a 15-member or a 16-member squad. There is no question of limiting your option. They have got enough people there. They have covers for every player. I think whatever they have in terms of ammunition, I think, everyone is there in Australia,” opined Kartik.
“Someone like Wriddhiman Saha has not recovered who is among the best keepers in the country and it will be interesting to see how Rishabh Pant is going to play there. It will be closely contested series,” he said.
The first Test will be played in Adelaide from December 6 and the conundrum of picking the best XI will be on the minds of team management. Since the track is conducive to spin bowling, R Ashwin will be an automatic selection given his record and batting acumen. He took 12 wickets in the 3 Tests there on India's last tour.
If India goes for two spinners, Kuldeep Yadav might be the better choice, but Kartik feels Ravindra Jadeja should be chosen instead.
He said, “It is a very tough one (to pick either Kuldeep or Jadeja). But if you look at Ravindra Jadeja’s performance in Test cricket, there is no reason for him to get dropped. It all depends on the surface. Some would say Kuldeep should play. There is a general perception that Adelaide and Sydney are more suitable to spinners but it is not necessary that ball will spin there because these pitches are flat tracks.”
“Yes, there are days when the ball spins in Australia because there are hard wickets and the wear and tear happen, the bowlers’ footmarks also create a rough patch on the pitch. Australian pitches are literally rough. It is not the rough that you get in the subcontinent. From that point of view, depending upon the surface, I will still go with Ravindra Jadeja. He has not done anything wrong to not get a place. At the Oval, he did all he could both with the ball and the bat. All of these things add for the continuity which is very important for the team. I would go with Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja if the need for playing only two spinners arises,” the former India spinner added.
Kartik also opined about playing Yuzvendra Chahal in Tests and said, “Just because somebody is bowling four overs and ten overs, does not mean he becomes a Test match bowler. There are guys who have done well in four-day cricket and Test match cricket consistently, that’s the reason why they are playing. There is a reason behind every selection.”
Talking about the opening combination, Kartik said, He said, “Again you have to look at the continuity. You have given a chance to Shaw who has done well in the two Test matches he played. Rahul just got a hundred recently. Yes, Murali Vijay’s overseas record is good. His record in Australia is good but he was dropped after the two Test matches in England and other people have been given chances in his place and they have done well. So, I don’t think there should be any change in the first Test match when it comes to the opening combination.”
As for Rohit Sharma’s inclusion in Tests, he said, “It is tough to say whether he should play or not. It will depend on how he goes in T20s and what conditions are. India needs 2 spinners and 3 seamers or vice-versa, how do you fit him in the team because both Ashwin and Jadeja can bat. It will be interesting to see if he plays.”
Speaking about vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, Kartik said, “With Rahane, it is a mental thing. I don’t think it is any technical thing. He is a rock solid player. He is a well-established player. He is the vice-captain of the side. He is a calm head whom the captain turns to. Once he gets into the habit of scoring big runs, he will back in his zone.”
(with inputs from firstpost.com)