After levelling the four-match Test series 1-1 in Bengaluru, Team India will look to take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the third Test that begins in Ranchi tomorrow. The 22-yard strip that will be used for this Test is the talking point ahead of the match and reports are to believed, the wicket is set to assist the spinners with not much bounce on offer for the bowlers.
It won’t a surprise if both the teams go into the Test with reinforcements in the spin department.
For India, this is a crucial match as the hosts crumbled in the first Test against Steve O’Keefe and then in the second test to Nathan Lyon. Team India will make sure that such a dismal batting performance is not repeated in the series. A good news for the Indian fans is that Murali Vijay has recovered from the injury and is in line to make a comeback into the XI.
What will be India’s bowling combination in the third Test? Will Karun Nair play? Let us take a look at the predicted playing XI ahead of the Ranchi Test
With 215 runs in 4 innings at an average of 53.75, Indian opener KL Rahul is the leading run scorer in this series. In spite of playing with a shoulder injury, it is highly unlikely that the Karnataka batsman will be rested for this crucial encounter. His opening partner’s role is up for the grabs as there will be a toss-up between the Tamil Nadu duo of Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund.
The fans were in for a surprise when Kohli revealed that Vijay was ruled out of the Bengaluru Test due to a shoulder injury and Mukund replaced him. It was a golden chance for Mukund, who was playing his first Test match in 6 years, but the left-hander failed to cash it in as he had a forgettable outing which saw him score just 16 runs in two innings, including a duck in the first innings.
With Vijay back to full fitness, it is certain that he will replace Mukund in the playing XI for the third Test. The team needs someone like Vijay at the top of the wicket on this wicket that is set to assist the spinners.
The batsmen featuring in the middle order will depend on the team combination that the management wants to go with. With the wicket expected to assist the spinners, it won’t be a bad idea to go in with an extra batsman instead of an extra bowler.
If Virat Kohli goes in with five bowlers, one bowler might go underused and at the same time, having an extra batsman will give the team more edge in the batting department. If the team management chooses the 7-4 combination, then all the batsmen who played in the middle order in the second Test will be retained as India don’t have the luxury of an extra batsman in the squad.
This will be the perfect opportunity for Karun Nair to seal his spot in the Test XI. Skipper Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha will look to score some runs in the Test after having a silent series with the bat.
In all likelihood, Virat Kohli will go into the third Test with just four bowlers and given the nature of the pitch, there are high chances of seeing three spinners play the match alongside a lone pacer. The world number 1 Test bowlers, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are certainties in the playing XI and the spot for the third spinner in the team will be a toss-up between off-spinner Jayant Yadav and uncapped chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
Jayant was decent in the Test series against England and failed to make it count in the first Test against Australia and was dropped for the second Test to accommodate an extra batsman. Though it will be unfair on Jayant if he misses out, the team management must prefer the chinaman ahead of the Haryana offie given the Aussies’ track records against wrist spinners.
Also, Kuldeep is completely an unknown commodity and it will be difficult for the visitors to read him and get going against his bowling.
As mentioned in the previous slide, there are high chances of India going in with three spinners and one pacer as the wicket will offer the tweakers more than the fast bowlers. The last time India went in with just one pacer was way back in the 2012 Nagpur Test (India went in with four spinners and one seamer).
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who didn’t play in the first two matches, is set to miss the Ranchi Test and it will be a direct toss-up between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav for the fast bowler’s slot. Ishant has been India’s spearhead in Tests and has troubled the Aussie batsmen in the first two matches.
On the other hand, Umesh has been Kohli’s go-to pacer since the start of the home season and the Vidarbha pacer too is repaying the faith his skipper has in him.
Umesh’s phenomenal run in the home season should put him as the favourite to get into the XI as the sole fast bowler ahead of Ishant.
The playing XI
Virat Kohli as a captain is yet to field the same XI in two consecutive Tests and the trend is set to continue as India might tinker with the playing XI that won the Bangalore Test. Murali Vijay is set to come in place of Abhinav Mukund and the other change will be in the bowling department.
With the wicket looking like a minefield, India will go with three spinners and the one who will miss out to accommodate the extra spinner (Kuldeep Yadav) will depend on the team combination. If it’s a 6-5 combination, Karun Nair will make way for the spinner while a pacer will have to sit out if the team management decides to go in with seven batsmen.
It will be better to have an extra batsman in these conditions as the runs he scores might come in handy in the end.
India’s predicted playing XI: KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Umesh Yadav.