Sports, Cricket

India yet to decide middle order slot

Published : 08 Feb 2023 09:12 PM

Two key middle order batters will be missing in action when India face off against Australia in the first Test in Nagpur, both of them well-equipped in handling tricky Indian pitches with their own methods. Since January 2021, Rishabh Pant has been the highest run-getter for India in Tests played at home, while Shreyas Iyer is third on the list. But Pant is currently recovering from injuries sustained in a road accident while Iyer is nursing a back issue.

Their absence has left India pondering over the combination for the first Test. While KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan are the two wicketkeeping options available for India (KL Rahul can keep wickets too), Iyer's non-availability leaves the hosts with two batters who are relatively untested in the middle order. Shubman Gill has opened in 14 of the 15 innings he has played for India and has not batted lower than No.3. Suryakumar Yadav, who is yet to make his Test debut, is the other choice.

Addressing the media on the eve of the match, skipper Rohit Sharma conceded that India are still undecided about the middle order position. "Speaking about Gill and Surya, they obviously bring different things to the table for us.

Gill obviously has been in supreme form in the last three to four months, a lot of hundreds, big hundreds as well. And on the other hand, Surya has shown in T20 cricket what he's capable of and what sort of game he can bring to Test cricket as well. So both are quality options for us. We've not decided yet what we have to do with those two guys. But we'll keep in mind all aspects of the game.

"We sometimes have to go with what is right for that particular Test match, that particular day, whichever format it be.

Test cricket, it's five day cricket and things keep changing every session, every hour. So you've got to be prepared to take some brave calls as well. Yes, Rishabh was a very, very important player for us in the middle order, how he batted in the last few years for us, we'll definitely miss that. But we've got a few guys who'll come and do the job for us.

"We've had good, solid talks with all the batters, finding their own methods of scoring runs, countering what is there on offer, and things like that. Hopefully, tomorrow when we start the game, we can achieve all those things," added Rohit.

India will also have some headaches with the bowling combination, especially in the spin department. R Ashwin is the spin spearhead and with the return of Ravindra Jadeja, India will have their main spin combo resume operations. Meanwhile, the third spinner's spot will be a toss up between Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav. The presence of several left-handed batters in the Australian line-up might tilt the balance in Kuldeep's favour but Axar's excellent record in the home series against England will also be on the Indian think-tank's minds and going in with all four spinners also cannot be ruled out considering their utility with the bat and the nature of the pitch.

"All four spinners are quality. Jadeja and Ashwin have played a lot together and have performed consistently. Speaking about Axar and Kuldeep, whenever they have got an opportunity, they have done well, they've put the batters under pressure. The last series that we played against England in India, Axar picked wickets (36), that's a lot of wickets man. And Kuldeep as well, he played only one Test match in Bangladesh and got five wickets there as well. All four of them available to us is a great sign and gives us that comfort as well," said Rohit.

"Three of them are quality all-rounders, not to forget that. And Kuldeep can bat as well - if you saw the Test match in Bangladesh, he got 40-odd crucial runs for us.

So when you have players like those who can do multiple things on the ground, (it) gives us great options, gives us depth as well. So I feel having all four of them available to us is a positive sign," he added.