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India vs England: Don’t dump Vijay and Rahul just yet; play Pant too

Since both Dhawan and Rahul are yet to prove themselves overseas, one had anticipated some trouble at the top of the order. But Vijay’s sudden loss of form has accentuated the problem manifold.

cricket Updated: Aug 18, 2018 12:13 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
murali vijay,kl rahul,shikhar dhawan
India should persist with KL Rahul and Murali Vijay at the top of the order in order to maintain continuity.(Action Images via Reuters)

Since the playing XI had a huge impact on the outcome of the first two Tests, it’s only fair to focus on the probable XI while previewing the third Test. On the one hand, India is figuring out whom to play and on the other, the hosts are mulling over whom to be left our after Stokes return to the fold.

Let’s start at the top and figure out if there’s a way to address the starting trouble. India started this tour with Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay as openers with KL Rahul playing one drop. The second Test at Lord’s saw Dhawan’s omission from the XI and Rahul’s promotion to the top of the order. Incidentally, none of the three openers available for selection have anything to show from their overseas outings in 2018.

Since both Dhawan and Rahul are yet to prove themselves overseas, one had anticipated some trouble at the top of the order. But Vijay’s sudden loss of form has accentuated the problem manifold. Answer to the current issue is more on hope than in belief. I’d be giving both Vijay and Rahul another Test match to turn it around, for dropping either of them will further add to the game of musical chairs at the top.

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For a while now this Indian team has focused on playing with only five batsmen. While the tactic has worked magically in the sub-continent, it’s not had the same impact overseas thus far. The reason behind India opting for a five-bowler theory was the inability to dismiss the opposition twice. But since that’s happened four times in the last five overseas Tests (without any significant help from Hardik Pandya — the fifth bowler), there’s merit in reconsidering the strategy.

In addition to the bowlers doing well, Indian batting has floundered more often than one would’ve liked. There’s only one middle-order batsman sitting outside and incidentally, he scored a triple-century the last time he played against England. I’d play six batsmen with Karun Nair slated to bat after Ajinkya Rahane.

India went back in time to replace the injured Wriddhiman Saha. First it was Parthiv Patel and now, Dinesh Karthik. The problem of going backwards is that you tend to lose patience sooner than you should, for it takes only a couple of failures for the decade-old record to come back and haunt you.

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Parthiv’s omission was a little unceremonious and the same is likely to happen to Karthik soon. While it might sound a little unfair and unfortunate, I’ll be taking a chance with Rishabh Pant. To bounce back after a demoralising loss, you need an inspirational performance and the chances of it coming from a player who isn’t carrying baggage of failure are a lot more.

Considering the way the first two Test matches panned out, there’s merit in assuming that there’ll be help for faster bowlers at Trent Bridge too. If that’s indeed the case, there’s a strong case to play only one spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin and three proper fast bowlers.

Even though Hardik has looked fairly assured with the bat, it might be prudent for him to make way for a bowler who would qualify as a frontline seamer. If Jasprit Bumrah is fit, available and the team management is confident of him lasting the Test (since he hasn’t played a competitive game since the T20 in Ireland), it’ll be tempting to pick him ahead of Umesh Yadav.

(The writer is a former Test batsman and his views are personal)

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 08:20 IST