The Oval Test may not have too much importance as per series perspective but it does have a lot to offer to Indian cricket team. Every overseas Test gives an opportunity to learn and correct. With India playing another overseas Test series this year down under, Virat Kohli will look to make the most of it.
Experimenting with the players like Hanuma Vihari and Prithvi Shaw is a good option for Indian skipper, as per Sourav Ganguly. He reckons India should also try the four-bowler strategy in the final Test.
India and England will play the fifth Test on Friday and with the series already secured by the hosts, Joe Root and side would look this game not more than Alastair Cook's farewell Test.
“The Oval is a different pitch; it will have a lot of bounce but it is important for Virat to assess how much rough will be created,” Ganguly wrote in his column for The Times of India on Friday.
“What Virat needs to have a look at is his team’s batting. It is important to have a change at the top and give Prithvi Shaw a go. He is young, not battle-scarred, and had a good India A tour of England. Both KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan are not in the best of form and it will not be a bad idea to have a change at the top.”
Ganguly added that it is the right time for India to try different bowling combinations as a preparation for future. “I am a big believer of playing five bowlers and the Indian bowling unit has been exceptional this series. However, maybe Virat can think about a four-bowler option to see how the bowling unit reacts to such situations and whether this could be a possibility in the future. A lot of good teams in world cricket have succeeded with this formula. It will also give Hunama Vihari an opportunity. Good things have been said about him of late and this will also help to strengthen the squad’s batting depth,” he wrote.
Moeen Ali was the pick of the bowler for England in the fourth Test. The all-rounder picked up 9 wickets, while India's R Ashwin came back with only 3. However, Ganguly wants Virat Kohli to back the Indian off-spinner and play him in the final Test unless he is unfit.
“It is common for everyone to find a reason for the loss, scrutinise the performance of individual players and create their own elevens, but it’s important for Virat to step aside and have a closer look himself, and I particularly mention the word ‘himself’, as to what the best possible eleven is. Yes, Moeen Ali bowled better than Ashwin in the fourth Test but that does not make Moeen ultimately a better bowler than Ashwin. It is important for Virat to ensure, first, that Ashwin is fully fit and then decide between him and Jadeja as to who the better option is,” he observed.
India has got moments in the series where they could have changed the results but failed.
“India go into the fifth Test with the series already decided. Still, Virat and his boys have a lot to play for because 3-2 sounds better than 4-1 and India needs to fight for that. They had their moments in the three matches they lost, but I am sure they will understand that having moments and finishing things off are two different things."
With India nothing to lose in the last Test, Ganguly wants the team to forget the previous result and start afresh. "I know that’s easier said than done, but professional athletes have to find a way to do this. There has been a lot of criticism but that is part and parcel of professional sport and as athletes, it’s important to create a zone and re-assess yourself,” he opined.