Ind vs NZ 2nd Test | With Kohli back, India finds itself in a selection muddle
Red soil and overcast skies could prompt New Zealand to bring in Wagner for Somerville
The wet build-up to the second Test in Mumbai may have deprived both India and New Zealand of an ideal preparation, but it hasn’t really dampened the interest in the high-pressure game.
Despite the excitement of return of Test cricket to the Wankhede Stadium after five years, the day before the deciding Test of the series was deprived of all the hectic action.
While New Zealand cancelled its training session, a group of India cricketers practised at Mumbai Cricket Association’s indoor academy at Bandra-Kurla Complex. In the afternoon, just before a half-hour downpour rushed the groundstaff into yet another frenzy, both the captains and coaches drove down at the stadium and had a close look at the 22-yard strip.
India captain Virat Kohli, head coach Rahul Dravid, bowling coach Paras Mhambrey and batting coach Vikram Rathour were involved in an intense discussion with BCCI chief curator Ashish Bhowmick, presumably, about the nature of the brown-looking strip.
Importantly, India’s think-tank will have its task cut out to finalise its playing combination for the key match. More than choosing between Mohammed Siraj and Ishant Sharma or Wriddhiman Saha and K.S. Bharat, the trickiest decision will be whether to leave Shreyas Iyer out or not, with Kohli set to return to the side.
Had it not been for Kohli’s decision to rest from the first Test, Shreyas wouldn’t have become India’s Test cap No. 303. With the Mumbai batter having marked the occasion by becoming the first batter to score a hundred and a fifty on debut, it will be difficult to leave him out.
With Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli himself failing to score runs consistently in the last couple of years, India will be tempted to keep Shreyas in the side.
In that case, it will be interesting to see if opener Mayank Agarwal is left out, with either Pujara or the wicketkeeper being converted into a stop-gap opener. Not only did the Andhra batter impressed with his glovework as substitute in Kanpur but he is a regular top-order batter in domestic cricket.
While India has too many muddles to resolve, New Zealand appear to be mulling over a solitary change. Captain Kane Williamson will be tempted to give left-arm pacer Neil Wagner a go in place of a spinner. Despite his heroics with the willow as nigthtwatcher, William Somerville hardly looked impressive with the ball.
Red soil, coupled with overcast skies for the first half of the game, would definitely be an incentive for the Black Caps to field three pacers.
Changes in team are combination-based: Kohli
India captain Virat Kohli has preferred to keep the team combination close to his chest, especially with regard to who will make way for him in the second Test.
“You have to obviously understand the situation of where the team is placed. You have to understand where individuals stand at certain stages during the course of a long season. So you have to obviously communicate well,” Kohli said on Thursday.
“You have to speak to the individuals and approach them in a way where you explain things to them properly. Mostly it has been combination-based whenever we have done changes in the past. It is not a difficult thing to do when there is collective trust and belief in the group that we are working towards the same vision.”
Having failed to score a hundred for two years, Kohli worked with former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar here for almost a week.
“It was just to stay in the rhythm of playing red-ball cricket. The idea was to get repetition and volume, which is important in Test cricket. It is just about getting into the mould of switching in-between formats, something that I have always tried to do,” he said.
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-capt.), Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), K.S. Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Prasidh Krishna.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (Capt.), Will Young, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Tom Blundell (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, William Somerville, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson.
Umpires: Nitin Menon & Anil Chaudhary; Third umpire: Virender Sharma. Match Referee: Javagal Srinath.
Match starts at 9.30 a.m.