MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Spin or pace: Teams keep a cool head, Kuldeep still in the mix as Ashwin eyes 100th Test

If England means business in the dead rubber, Rohit Sharma’s men would aim to clinch vital World Test Championship points. India though have been left a bit wary on deciding their final XI

Indranil Majumdar Dharamsala Published 07.03.24, 10:43 AM
Zak Crawley (second from right) does well to take a catch in the slips ahead of a leaping Joe Root as (from left) Ben Duckett and Jonny Bairstow look on, in Dharamsala on Wednesday.

Zak Crawley (second from right) does well to take a catch in the slips ahead of a leaping Joe Root as (from left) Ben Duckett and Jonny Bairstow look on, in Dharamsala on Wednesday. Getty Images

More than a month ago, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum had landed with a positive outlook on Bazball’s success in India. The plot failed miserably but Stokes’ men have been living in hope.

The freezing temperatures here prompted their players to come out in beanie caps at training on Wednesday. The conditions will suit them more than it will the hosts, but it is the team composition that could have a huge say on the outcome.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stokes sounded far from downcast on the eve of the final Test and insisted that his “Bazballers” have made progress and evolved on this tour, the 3-1 scoreline notwithstanding. That should sound like music to the ears of the numerous England supporters who have descended on Dharamsala and McLeodganj.

If England means business in the dead rubber, Rohit Sharma’s men would aim to clinch vital World Test Championship points. India though have been left a bit wary on deciding their final XI.

Will they play three pacers or go in with three spinners? Kuldeep Yadav was too good
in the last Test in Ranchi, including a match-winning spell in the second innings, and will be difficult to leave out. But harsh decisions sometimes need to be made in the best interests of the team.

The consistent ice-cold breeze emanating from the Dhauladhar range will aid swing though the wicket has a dry and bald look to it. The last Ranji match here, barely three weeks ago, finished within four days where seamers took all the 36 wickets to fall. That’s not unusual in these parts.

While India dither over the playing XI, England have dropped their idea of including three pacers, recalling Mark Wood in place of Ollie Robinson in an attempt to beef up their attack. Veteran Jimmy Anderson is two wickets shy of 700 in Tests and will partner Wood again.

Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir will be the specialist spinners, besides Joe Root, on a pitch described by Ben Stokes as a “belter” and one which “might have some pace and carry”.

This is clearly a ground for the fast bowlers but it’s Kuldeep’s track record that is perhaps delaying a tough call on the inevitable. Rohit sounded open to the idea of a third seamer at the news conference.

“Certainly. Why shouldn’t he come in?” Rohit said on Wednesday. “If we feel the weather is going to be like this, there is a good chance. We’ve not yet completely decided on it, but there is a good chance, definitely.

“I’ve not played a Test match here... The last time we played a Test here was 2017 — against Australia — and both seamers and spinners were in play, but I’m not too sure (how it will go this time).”

Ravichandran Ashwin is set for his 100th Test but didn’t completely agree that spinners will find the going tough. “It will take a bit of time for the fingers to adjust,” he said. “That’s the beauty.”

Rohit though quipped “the toss hasn’t happened yet”, refusing to provide any assurance for Ashwin’s landmark game, before offering a wry smile.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT