Sport

Kohli to change playing XI for 37th time?

Visitors seek winning combination for the second match which begins today.

London: The Indian cricket team would expect its floundering batsmen to take more responsibility in pursuit of a series-levelling victory in the second Test against England, starting Thursday at the Lord’s.

If captain Virat Kohli had got support from his batting colleagues in Birmingham, the scenario would have been completely different. The world number one Test side came close to taking the lead but fell short by 31 runs. The mood in the Indian dressing room, though, is quite upbeat.

Two days before the game, there was healthy amount of grass on the Lord’s pitch. It is expected that the groundsmen will shave a few bits off before the first ball. But even if they don’t, the general expectation is that the pitch would turn out to be quite dry.

This has also prompted a rethink in the Indian camp as to what bowling strategy they would want to go in with. Despite India’s overall failed batting effort at Edgbaston, bowling coach Bharat Arun ruled out playing an extra batsman here. He also mentioned that the second spinner could come into contention.

Experimentation to continue

According to the Indian camp, Edgbaston was a difficult pitch to bat on and this experiment could yet continue. Even so, with 36 different playing XIs in as many Tests under Kohli’s captaincy, the Indian line-up is begging for some consistency.

Pandya may be rested

If Pujara does play, whom does he come in for? Maybe Hardik Pandya, who has always been picked as a batting all-rounder. Even at Edgbaston, Pandya bowled 10 overs in the first innings and did not bowl in the second at all.

In the four Tests Pandya has played overseas this year, he has bowled 61 overs and has taken 3 wickets at an average of nearly 70 and strike rate of 122. Is that a strong enough contribution from an all-rounder?

Pujara can come back

Away from bowling attack permutations, Kohli will face a tougher dilemma regarding the batting line-up. The skipper played Shikhar Dhawan ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara at Edgbaston, fitting-in KL Rahul in the eleven appropriately.

Experimentation with the number three spot is nothing new for this team management. The question, however, for the team management to answer is if they want Pujara – someone who has played county cricket this summer – back in the playing eleven. Dhawan only managed 26 and 13, while Rahul scored 4 and 13, yet nothing has really changed since Birmingham.

Toss-up between tweakers Kuldeep, Jadeja

If India opt for an additional spinner, Umesh Yadav can expect to be left out with Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya handling the pace duties. Toss-up for the second spinner’s slot is an interesting one.

The last time Ravindra Jadeja played at the Lord’s (in 2014), he took 3-99 in two innings but scored 68 in the second innings that underlined his value with the bat and helped India put on a match-winning total.

It isn’t easy to overlook Kuldeep Yadav either. There is a strong appreciation for his talent in the Indian camp, and it was once again noticeable in the nets as he bowled to Kohli on Tuesday, beating him with drift and turn on more than a couple of occasions.

In dry conditions, wrist spin is a premium weapon, particularly against a line-up that hasn’t faced Kuldeep much (barring Root, Bairstow and Buttler).

(With inputs from Agencies)

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