This is part 2 of a series. For the previous part, click here.
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Having said all that, runs do not guarantee a Test victory. Wickets do. You need a bowling attack which can bowl the opposition out – twice. While it is important to acknowledge the incredible growth our pacers have had over the past few years overseas and at home, spinners will still be the key to victory on turning tracks. Ashwin is almost a given in the team and as he enters the twilight of his career, he’ll be looking to make his presence felt with both bat and ball. Ravindra Jadeja returns to the squad after an injury but 7 wickets in an innings is enough to boost anyone’s confidence. His effort in batting has also reaped rewards, scoring valuable runs down the order in difficult overseas conditions and he’ll be ready to perform whenever he gets a chance.
Ideally, India should go with 3 spinners and that leaves Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav to fight for the 3rd spot. In Jadeja’s absence, Axar filled the void almost perfectly in limited overs and his still young Test career has already had moments of brilliance where he has single handedly taken India to a victory. With that being said, Kuldeep Yadav has returned with a new action and he can cause serious trouble for the Aussie top order. Yadav is overdue a long run and deserves that chance more than anyone, even if it means dropping Axar Patel. Such is the problem of plenty.
Playing time may have eluded him since July 2022, but Bumrah has never been out of the headlines. He was supposed to succeed Ishant Sharma as the leader of the pacers but destiny had other plans. If he does regain fitness in time to be selected for the 3rd and 4th Test, he’ll be a shoo-in for the playing XI but the fact is India are without him for the first 2 Tests. Siraj made his Test bow in the previous BGT and hasn’t looked back since. He was like Virat’s right hand man in the series in England and even under Rohit’s captaincy, he has flourished in limited overs, recently becoming the #1 ODI Bowler in the ICC Rankings. Even if fast bowlers don’t have as much of an influence this series, India will rely heavily on Siraj to get early breakthroughs with the new ball. Deciding the other pacer is not as simple, though, because Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat all bring something different to the table. Shami‘s skills in moving the ball around are undoubtedly the best and it’s not wrong to say that he has been unlucky in not getting enough wickets. His fitness is a concern and a mark against him but is still the frontrunner to be part of the playing XI come 9th February. Yadav has been around for longer than you think. He was a 150+ bowler when he started and has still maintained his fitness. He has always put in that extra effort especially on Indian tracks to get the special something out of the pitch. One incident I remember very clearly is from the 2016 BGT in the 3rd Test when a delivery from Umesh broke Maxwell’s bat and he flexed his muscles. Even coming in as a batter at 10/11, Yadav is as entertaining as it gets but I think India will still go with Shami, at least for the first match. Another name in the mix which surprises a lot of people is Jaydev Unadkat. For most, he’s *that* bowler in IPL who kept getting sold for a huge amount and then getting thrashed all around the ground. The Saurashtra skipper led them to their first Ranji title in 2019-20 where he was also the leading wicket taker with 67 scalps. Saurashtra also won the 2022-23 Vijay Hazare trophy under his captaincy and he was the leading wicket taker of the tournament again with 19 wickets. He has been a regular on the domestic circuit for a very long time and even made his Test debut back in 2010 against South Africa. It took him another 12 years to play his second Test match, which he did against Bangladesh last year. This may seem like a lot of things to have been said for someone who seems very unlikely to make it to the team but think about it, he’s a 6 ‘3 left arm medium pacer and one can only wonder how different things could’ve been for him. Oh and he’s only 31, younger than both Shami and Yadav.
Social media is always abuzz with talk of players who did not get picked and this time is no different. Sarfaraz Khan has been posting Bradmanesque numbers in the Ranji trophy for Mumbai and Prithvi Shaw seems to have been knocking on the door too with lots of runs under his belt. Hanuma Vihari seems to have been out of the team for a reason I can’t comprehend and he’s been determined; coming out to bat with one hand for Andhra Pradesh and scoring runs when the entire team got bowled out under 100. Vihari’s dedication to Test cricket has been evident from how he has approached his game by ignoring franchisee cricket and grinding it out at the lower levels. Maybe like Hardik Pandya said, we really do need 2 teams to accommodate the wealth of talent that we have been blessed with. The team which takes the field may seem very predictable lacking any huge surprises and it may not seem like the best possible team but there’s one thing we can all be sure of – the performances will come, this will be an entertaining series full of drama and surprises and hopefully we get to see the result we all wish for. If you’re just as hyped and want to also engage in discussions, here’s a WhatsApp group link if you wish to interact with other diehards: https://chat.whatsapp.com/K6PNfeuEFBQFCm3ySWXa3c
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