On Friday, the BCCI selection committee headed by Chetan Sharma announced India’s squad for the first two Tests of the Australia tour of India for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
These are 4 crucial Tests for India as they aim to seal a spot in the WTC final, slated for June at The Oval. Australia, too, are not yet confirmed of a seat in the WTC final, and for that, they only have to avoid a 4-0 whitewash.
India’s Test squad for the first two Tests against Australia: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja*, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Suryakumar Yadav.
Here are the 3 good decisions taken by the BCCI selectors:
Backing KL Rahul
After removing KL Rahul as the vice-captain in the white-ball teams, the BCCI selectors could have also not only taken away his vice-captaincy in the Test team, but also they would have been justified in dropping him.
For, Rahul’s form with the bat in recent months, since his return to the side following a hernia surgery, has been dodgy across formats.
In the 2 Tests in Bangladesh, KL Rahul managed scores of 22, 23, 10, and 2, while his opening partner, Shubman Gill, hit a century in the absence of Rohit Sharma.
The team management now has a big call to make as to who will be Rohit’s opening partner against Australia. Considering that KL Rahul is named as the vice-captain, he will remain in the side, whether as an opener or be shifted in the middle-order we will have to wait for that. In any case, it is good on the BCCI to show faith in Rahul, who also had a bumper 2017 home Test series vs Australia.
Picking Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan as the aggressive options to replace Rishabh Pant
To replace Pant, the BCCI selectors have taken a punt over the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan in the Test squad while leaving out a couple of other batters/keeper-batters who have been doing well in domestic cricket.
One of the thoughts for this selection is that, both SKY and Kishan have exposure of international cricket and the BCCI wouldn’t want to throw in debutants in an important series against Australia, and that both these players will also be not intimidated by the Aussie bowlers. Both Kishan and Surya are well-equipped to bat in the similar tempo as that of Pant.
This calculated gamble by the BCCI selectors could go any way.
Picking Jaydev Unadkat who could be the X-factor as left-arm pacer
In Bangladesh, Unadkat played only his second Test, after having made his debut back in 2010. Unadkat returned with impressive figures of 2/50 and 1/17; his economy of 2.68 in that Test as a pace was terrific.
Although Unadkat might be behind in the pecking order than Shami, Umesh, and Siraj, India might ponder hard over including Unadkat as the second pacer against Australia, whose two main batters are Smith and Labuschagne, and both can be dismissed with lbw and bowled manner. Unadkat also has a significantly more experience in recent years of playing on the Indian surfaces in domestic red-ball cricket than Shami and Siraj.
Unadkat could well be India’s X-factor in the bowling department.