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India vs England: KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan should not be axed after one failure

Even though Virat Kohli (in 36 matches as a Test captain) has never fielded the same XI in two consecutive Test matches, it’s not that easy this time around.

cricket Updated: Aug 09, 2018 11:07 IST
KL Rahul,Shikhar Dhawan,Ben Stokes
India's Shikhar Dhawan reacts after being dismissed during the third day of the first test cricket match between England and India at Edgbaston.(AP)

While there was little to choose between the two sides in Edgbaston, England made fewer mistakes in the latter half of the game that sealed the fate in their favour. In a game of small margins, there’s a possibility of making amends if there’s time left in the game -- a luxury England had and India didn’t.

India might have run out of time in the first Test, they do have plenty of opportunities to comeback in the series as it moves to Lord’s -- a venue that brings fond memories for the visitors. On the contrary, unlike Edgbaston, England’s record at the Home of Cricket isn’t impeccable, for they lost to India in 2014 and to Pakistan in 2018.

India’s selection dilemma

England have lost Ben Stokes to the court hearing and decided to drop Dawid Malan after the failure in the first Test. The fact that Malan didn’t do well in four innings against Pakistan earlier this summer made the job of the selectors straightforward.

Even though Virat Kohli (in 36 matches as a Test captain) has never fielded the same XI in two consecutive Test matches, it’s not that easy this time around. Kohli went with his gut feeling in the first Test and played both Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan at the cost of Cheteshwar Pujara. Now, if both were good enough to play the first Test of a five-Test series, they should be considered good enough to play at least one more, for every batsmen barring Kohli failed in the first Test.

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Singling out either of them would send wrong signals within the team. While it’s possible that the dropped catches might have built a stronger case against Dhawan, he’s been shown the exit door after just one failure way too often already. Just like Pujara shouldn’t have been dropped earlier, both Rahul-Dhawan should not be axed after one failure in a match where everyone else also failed. But then, the problem with gut feeling is that it tends to feel differently every day/week.

Pandya, the all-rounder

In the first Test, the presence of Stokes had tilted the balance in England’s favor and that’s why he’ll be sorely missed. A quality all-rounder allows the team to play with seven batsmen without compromising the fifth bowling option. India’s tryst with Hardik Pandya is based along the same lines.

While he’s shown promise and potential from time to time, the fact that Pandya has taken only seven wickets in eight Tests (out of which three were in South Africa and one in England) he’s not the kind of fifth bowler that a team requires in Tests. Since he’s bowling only a handful of overs, he’s barely sharing the workload of the four primary bowlers either.

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Pandya scored two fifties in the last nine Test innings in 2018, out of which one was against Afghanistan. Considering the warm English weather and the history of the surface at Lord’s, there’s a strong case to play an extra bowler, preferably a spinner.

While the temptation will be to play Kuldeep Yadav, it may not be viable considering the batting prowess, or the lack of it, of India’s lower order. My vote will be for Ravindra Jadeja’s inclusion in place of Pandya, for Jadeja can offer the runs that Pandya is offering at the moment.

(The writer is a former Indian Test batsman and opinions expressed here are personal)

First Published: Aug 09, 2018 10:19 IST