Had this not been a Pink Ball Test, India, after their emphatic series-levelling win in Chennai last week, wouldn't have had to scratch their head over the ideal XI for the next Test. All bases were covered and the execution was perfect as India outspun the visitors on rank turner at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. But India will have to, if not many, make at least one change heading into the third Test which offers more uncertainties than ever.
Not much is still known about the SG Pink, despite India having experienced the variety back in November 2019 against Bangladesh which was the shortest Test ever played on Indian soil. Hence, factors like the advent of dew, visibility issue, and batting in the Twilight phase still pose a huge concern for either side. Add to that the uncertainties pertaining to the refurbished Sardar Patel Stadium, which last hosted a Test match in 2014.
For India, eight spots from the Chennai (second Test) XI remain fixed - Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, R Ashwin, and Ishant Sharma, leaving the management to decide on the remaining three. The contemplation will resort to whether having more pacers than spinners or adding more batting depth to the existing lineup with more all-rounders. And here are some of the possibilities...
Umesh Yadav to end India's spin trio strategy?
Having cleared his fitness test on Sunday, Umesh has been added to the Indian squad after limping off with a calf injury that he had incurred during the second Test against Australia in December. Since January 2018, Umesh has played seven Tests taking 38 wickets at 13.82 with two five-wicket hauls. His average is the best for an Indian and second-best after Kyle Jamieson's 13.27 among bowlers who have at least played five home Tests in the given period. India will be tempted to give Umesh an opportunity going by his excellent home numbers, and hence might be replaced for Kuldeep Yadav, who bowled just 12.2 overs in the last Chennai Test, which was also his first appearance in the format since the Sydney Test in January 2019.
With the combination of Axar Patel and R Ashwin working perfectly for India, Kuldeep was the last spinner that Kohli had brought into the attack. Moreover, spinners have averaged more with the Pink Ball than pacers while Kuldeep also does not provide India with a batting possibility, hence strengthening the cause of his exclusion for the third Test.
Jasprit Bumrah in for Mohammed Siraj?
Siraj bowled only eight overs in the Chennai Test, picking one wicket. India might opt to rest the pacer and give Bumrah a go with Umesh and Ishant being the other two pacers. With the lesser possibility of India going with one spinner in the toss-up is likely to be for the two pacers who will accompany Ishant in his 100th Test.
Any possibility for a return of Hardik Pandya?
He last played a Test in the England series in 2018. It was earlier reported that he had begun preparing for the Pink Ball Test during the Chennai game itself. If India do need an extra bowling option, Pandya could be opted either replacing Axar Patel to strengthen the pace attack, the variety which picked 24 wickets in the Kolkata Test at 18.19 and is the most successful of the two in all 15 D/N Tests played to date, or can be picked as a third pacer thereby strengthening the batting lineup.