Both India and Australia are claiming, with a legitimate reason to back their beliefs, to have the momentum going into Dharamsala’s series decider. Australia managed to keep India at bay in Ranchi after India came back strongly after losing the toss on a flat pitch.
In my opinion, India walk into this Test with a slight advantage by the virtue of really stretching Australia’s resources and resolve in Ranchi. But still it won’t be unfair to say that pressure is on the hosts to make all the moves and produce a result in their favour, for a series scoreline of 1-1 will help Australia retain the trophy.
In the light of Australia’s meek surrender in Asia over the last few years, not losing a series against World’s number one ranked team will be an outstanding feat.
Kuldeep Yadav Should be Given a Test Cap
After the loss in Pune, the Indian team shelved its successful five-bowler strategy for an extra batsman. Since India won the second game and the batting didn’t fire as expected, they didn’t consider revisiting the old tactic in Ranchi. And that seemed to have backfired, for it became quite apparent that Indian bowlers ran out of fuel towards the end of the third Test.
Ashwin and Jadeja have bowled over 700 overs each in this long home Test season and therefore might need some support to see through the final leg. While Jadeja is visibly fitter and therefore hasn’t looked really tired, Ashwin’s lack of penetration in the previous Test might have been due to a huge amount of workload.
The pitch in Dharamsala has donned a fairly brown look (a sign of being bereft of live grass and moisture) and that might be a temptation to add an extra spinner. While Jayant is ahead in the queue, I would like to see Kuldeep Yadav handed over a Test cap.
Take a Call Between Ishant and Shami
In the last 12-18 months, Ishant has looked at his best – the seam is coming out bolt upright and has also, started bowling a lot fuller. In addition to that, he’s bowling at a good pace to go with his consistent lines. Unfortunately, the wickets column hasn’t reflected his good work. He’s taken only three wickets in this Test series at an average of 154.
Every other seam bowler who has played in this series has taken more wickets (Australia’s Pat Cummins has played only one game and still has more wickets than Ishant). While Numbers Do Lie often, India might have to bite the bullet and drop Ishant for Shami in this game.
Recently, Shami who played two List-A games, was with the team in Ranchi and has traveled to Dharamsala. All this indicates, him coming back to fitness and even though it might be unfair on Ishant, it’s more prudent to play Shami for the final Test.
Virat’s Fitness and Rahane’s Role
There’s a serious question mark over Kohli’s availability and therefore, the focus shifts on his deputy – Ajinkaya Rahane. Even though his half-century in the second Test laid the foundation of a famous comeback, he’s some distance away from his fluent best.
If Kohli doesn’t play, Rahane will have to shoulder the responsibility of holding the middle-order together. His role as a captain will also be under scrutiny, for India’s bowling plans under him in the Ranchi Test was criticised.
Since India needs to do the running around for a result, the role of a captain increases manifold. He won’t just be expected to score as much as Kohli but also, lead the team with the same energy and intent.