India vs England, 2nd Test: A Playing XI Headache for the Hosts

Not long after the defeat to England in the Hyderabad Test, there was more bad news in store for the Indian cricket team as KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja were ruled out of the second Test due to quadriceps and hamstring injuries respectively. In absence of Virat Kohli, Rahul did the heavy lifting in the middle-order in the series opener and Jadeja continued with his all-round show as he picked five wickets in the game and scored a crucial 87 in the first innings.

Also Read: How a Dynamic England Got the Better of a Passive India

Now with both unavailable for the Vizag Test, the Indian think tank needs to take some tough calls to ensure the balance of the Playing XI doesn’t go for a toss. The selectors added Sarfaraz Khan, Washington Sundar and Saurabh Kumar to the squad and it’s going to be a big headache for the management to figure out the right combination for the second fixture.

No.4 and middle-order

For starters, the No.4 is going to be the first concern and it’s likely that Rajat Patidar, who joined the side as a replacement for Kohli ahead of the Hyderabad Test, will make his debut. Both Patidar and Sarfaraz are fresh from big hundreds vs England Lions and have lot of First-class experience but it’s very likely that the former is going to get the nod.

Even after ordinary outings in his last ten Test innings, Shreyas Iyer is likely to hold on to his No.5 spot. The bigger problem, however, is going to be finding the ideal replacement to fill the Jadeja-sized hole. Over the last few years, Jadeja has been a vital cog in the Test set-up and lends a lot of balance with his contributions with both bat and ball. Now with him missing in the middle-order, batting certainly wears a depleted look and the depth which India have enjoyed in recent Tests will no longer be there.

Jadeja in Tests is like Hardik Pandya in limited-overs format and you need not one but two players to make up for his absence. Now will the think-tank go the specialist way, like they did during the 2023 World Cup after Pandya’s injury? Or will batting depth, especially with a new-look middle-order, be the focus?

Kuldeep in, Bumrah the lone seamer?

In Jadeja’s absence, it’s difficult to enjoy bowling bite and batting depth at the same time so a tough call awaits. The call isn’t that tough as far as third spinner for the second Test is concerned and Kuldeep Yadav is front-runner to share spin bowling duties with R Ashwin and Axar Patel.

Kuldeep will add a lot of variety to the attack and England’s approach against a crafty wrist spinner will be interesting to see. The left-arm chinaman, much quicker through the air than he started out, could be a real handful in helpful conditions.

If the pitch remains on the slower side and offers purchase to the slower bowlers, Rohit Sharma could be tempted to go in with Jasprit Bumrah as the lone seamer. India played Mohammed Siraj in the opener as the second seamer but he only bowled a total of only 11 overs in the match.

Not playing Siraj and going in with just one seamer opens up the option of either playing an extra batter in Sarfaraz or beefing up both bowling and batting by playing Sundar. Again, all these calls will depend on what the management choose to prioritise – batting depth or bowling options.

There are some crucial decisions to be made ahead of the Vizag Test and India, 0-1 down in the series, can’t afford a selection blunder. The selectors have done their bit by giving the best available replacements and it is over the coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit to first accurately assess the conditions and then assemble an ideal XI.

India squad for 2nd Test: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wicketkeeper), Dhruv Jurel (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah (vice-captain), Avesh Khan, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Washington Sundar, Saurabh Kumar.

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