Express News Service
CHENNAI: In the series so far, Jasprit Bumrah has delivered 108 overs, Mohammed Shami 96.5 overs and Mohammed Siraj 100.5 overs. To say these numbers are worrying for the Indian team would be an understatement. With two more Tests to go beginning Thursday followed by the IPL and T20 World Cup in quick succession, the workload of the pacers is beginning to become a slight concern for Team India. With the series poised 1-1 and all to play for, India are caught in a tight spot. They have to take bold calls, ensuring that they keep their pacers intact without compromising on their strength.
While The Oval has been traditionally a batting-friendly venue with spinners coming into equation as the Test progresses, India are holding their cards close to the chest with regards to the inclusion of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the XI. Having picked up seven wickets for Surrey in the County match at the Oval before the Pataudi Trophy commenced, it can be said that he merits a chance in the XI, particularly since Jadeja has accounted for only two wickets in the three matches so far. That said, India haven’t necessarily included Jadeja purely as a spin-bowling option. He has made the XI more as a batsman who can strengthen their middle-order, which hasn’t inspired confidence. Plus none of the pitches have taken considerable turn and India feel their decision to omit Ashwin has only been vindicated.
On the eve of each of the first three Tests, India captain Virat Kohli revealed Ashwin is part of the XII, only for the conditions on the morning of the Test to force him out. And on Wednesday, as bowling coach Bharat Arun fronted up to the media, the question on Ashwin invariably came up. And the response was no different. “The history at Oval is that it takes spin but you also know the Englishmen are wary of Ashwin’s abilities and what he could do if there’s any assistance from the track. I think the most realistic option would be to look at the track in the morning (Thursday) because anything can happen from now to tomorrow, so we’ll look at the track tomorrow morning and decide. If we feel he fits into the scheme of things, definitely they both will be bowling in tandem” Arun said on Wednesday.
A day ahead of the Test, the Oval pitch had a bit of grass cover, which is likely to be trimmed further. While that would possibly close the door on India playing two spinners, India are keeping their options open as the forecast is for dry weather on all five days with temperatures likely to rise on Day 4 and 5.
Having finalised the XI based on overhead conditions, India are sticking to the plan at the Oval too, but a couple of changes are expected. Although reserve pacer Prasidh Krishna has been added to the main squad, he is unlikely to start the fourth Test with Ishant Sharma set to make way for Shardul Thakur, who has recovered from the hamstring injury. The other change that India are exploring is with regards to resting one among Bumrah, Shami and Siraj with Umesh Yadav being lined up as a possible replacement keeping the workload in mind.