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Virat Kohli’s India spoilt for choices ahead of series-deciding Delhi Test vs Sri Lanka

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team only challenge ahead of the series-deciding Test against Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla is finding a balance between ringing in changes and at the same time making sure all the key players are prepared to their best before the opening Test in South Africa.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 01, 2017 15:12 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,Virat Kohli,Indian national cricket team
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team are one win/draw away from equalling the record of nine consecutive series wins as they prepare to face Sri Lanka in the final Test in New Delhi. (AFP)

The Indian cricket team may find out only at the start of the South Africa Test series early next month whether playing against a Sri Lanka team in disarray was useful or a disadvantage.

As Virat Kohli leads his team into the third and final Test starting at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday, the India camp won’t be in much doubt about wrapping up the series 2-0, extending their successful run to nine.

However, the Indian team management’s only challenge would be to find a balance between ringing in changes and at the same time making sure all the key players have prepared to their best before the opening Test, starting in Cape Town on January 5.

In keeping with India’s forward planning, forced due to lack of time to build-up for the pace-friendly conditions expected in South Africa, the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch too has a good sprinkling of grass.

However, even lively pitches at Delhi in the past have slowed down into the game, and it remains to be seen if the track will play differently this time.

Murali Vijay’s century in Nagpur has only increased Virat Kohli’s problem of plenty in the Indian cricket team. (AFP)

CHOICE OF OPENERS

The first call the Indian team management will need to take will be on whether Shikhar Dhawan will return to the side after missing the second Test win in Nagpur for personal reasons. With Murali Vijay, looking likely to play after scoring a century on his return, that could mean KL Rahul being asked to sit out.

However, if South Africa is the target, technically Vijay and Rahul would appear first choice, though Dhawan’s aggression can come in handy if pitch conditions are more benign. With Rahul having twice been bowled between bat and pad in this series, he will be eager to get a big knock before facing the formidable Proteas attack.

Letting Ajinkya Rahane find his touch will also be key. The spine of Indian batting while playing abroad, the India vice-captain was out for four and two in the first two Tests.

While India have plenty of options in the bowling department too, it remains to be seen whether the team management decides to field what it sees as the ideal combination to start the South Africa Test series.

Mohammed Shami’s form and fitness will be key for India as they prepare for the tour to South Africa. (AP)

SHAMI AT THE NETS

One man who looks set to play is Mohammed Shami. The pace bowler’s form and fitness will be vital if India are to push for their first series victory against the Proteas in their home turf. Shami, who sat out the Nagpur game due to a hip niggle, had a long bowling stint in the nets, was nippy and got the ball to move off the pitch as well.

Umesh Yadav, searching for his best rhythm after a superb last season and one short of his 100th Test scalp, could sit out if Shami and Ishant Sharma are chosen.

The other tricky call will be on whether to call up Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav to pair with Ravichandran Ashwin instead of Ravindra Jadeja.

“Whatever the team management does, we are all equipped and looking to contribute. I don’t know how they are going to play around with the team…we are all ready to do it for the team,” Murali Vijay said on Friday after training.

Sri Lanka’s batting crisis has run on since they were routed at home by India in July-August. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal, and predecessor Angelo Mathews, throwing their wickets away to hasten defeat in Nagpur has left the team’s comeback hopes slim.

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 15:10 IST