There could be temptation to play three spinners: KL Rahul


There could be temptation to play three spinners: KL Rahul

by Staff  •  Published on Tue, Feb 7, 2023

For as much as KL Rahul attempted to brush aside the importance of the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy, not wanting to stretch it any beyond just another Border-Gavaskar Trophy, he held the cards of India’s plan of action for the opening Test, in Nagpur, close to his chest. Often contradicting himself.

In what will be the last series of the World Test Championship cycle for India, their fate for a place in the final lies in their hands, and the results of the upcoming four-match series will remain crucial in that respect. There is a scope of blip, but then the reliance falls on Sri Lanka who are set to tour New Zealand.

“It is a must-win series,” Rahul admitted on Tuesday. “When it’s India-Australia, it always is. Each team wants to win, it’s a big series. I don’t think it’s any different to any other Border-Gavaskar Trophy we play. Yes, there is a World Test Championship (final) there that we all want to play, we all look to play in it. But we also have to take into fact that we have to take one game at a time and remain in the present. We’ll try to win the first game here in Nagpur and take it from there.

The Playing combination

There are three major conundrums that the Indian selectors are likely to be faced with. Who takes the gloves – KS Bharath or Ishan Kishan? Who bats at No 5 – Suryakumar Yadav or Shubman Gill? And if they play three spinners, who will be the favoured one – Axar Patel or Kuldeep Yadav?

The Indian vice captain offered no peek into the team’s plans. “We still haven’t decided on the final Playing XI,” he said. “There are still a couple of days for the game to start. We have a couple of tough decisions. There are guys who have performed exceedingly well, and there are a few discussions going on. Whoever is playing, will definitely know what their role is. We have to wait for Day 1 of the Test match.

“The Playing XI we decide based on what’s the best decision for the team in that Test match. We’ve done that in the past as well. There have been questions raised why a certain player played when Kuldeep got the Man of the Match against Bangladesh, and didn’t play the next match. The only reason behind such decisions is to see what’s the best XI for that conditions.

“Even in this series, we will try to make. Some matches are going to be tough on players, everyone has gone through that journey. Here, everybody is very clear about what the team is thinking, why they are playing, why they are not playing, what their roles are. And the atmosphere in the changing room is very good and everybody is clear what the captain and the coach are thinking.”

Challenge of spin and pace

Much unlike how Ian Healy stated that the contest will be in favour of Indians if the pitch assists spinners and aren’t ‘fair’, Rahul brushed aside the enormity of the challenge the visitors are likely to face.

“It’s an international team. They know exactly what to do to prepare themselves for such conditions. They’ve been here so many times before, they’ll know what to expect. They would have prepared before coming here. I don’t think that should be an issue.”

While he did admit that the Indian batters have been preparing to tackle the spin challenge, and signalled at what kind of challenge the Australian batters are likely to best prepare for, he remained just as non-commital on what pitch could likely offer in Nagpur.

“We did see it (the pitch), but it’s too early to know what the pitch will be,” he said. “We will still have to come here on the day of the game and only then we’ll know what the pitch is going to.. We can only look and assume that it’s going to play a certain way. But you never know. There could be a temptation to play three spinners. We know the pitches here in India and it’s going to spin. We’ll make the call on the day of the game or a day before the game.

“Obviously, we’ve worked on spin,” he added. “We know how the pitches are going to be here in India and what to expect. Keeping that in mind, each person has their individual plans. Everyone wants to play a certain way. Everyone has their own set way that has been discussed with the coaches and the batting group, and trying to get used to playing in spinning conditions and see how we can score runs.”

The advantage for the Indians spinners though, according to him, could come from the fact that Australia are likely to play five left-handers in the top 7 in the absence of Cameron Green.

“If there are a lot of left-handers, it will give the bowlers time to settle with their lines and lengths. It’s quite a unique thing. I don’t think any other team has that many left-handers. Ya, it will be a challenge for the bowlers, but it will also help them settle in their rhythm and line and lengths.”

Having said that, he didn’t rule out the old ball threat that the Australian pacers could pose. “Any fast bowler who can exploit reverse swing can be quite dangerous on these pitches. That’s something we also try to prepare for and tried practise for the last 8 to 10 days. We all know Australia have always produced high-quality fast bowlers. We know the threat they always bring in to the series with the new and the old ball. That’s the beauty of playing against top teams.”

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