Team India head into the Delhi Test, the final one of the Freedom Trophy, having wrapped up the four-match series already. Victories in Mohali and Nagpur were engineered by the Indian spin attack, with South Africa having no answers to the craft and guile of Ravichandran Ashwin and co. It is safe to say that the Indian spin attack has helped the home side win the Test series against South Africa. India’s batting has been a touch better than the visitors’, though most Indian batsmen have struggled against the likes of Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir and Simon Harmer, against whom the Indian batsmen should not have had as many problems as they did in the first three Tests.
Virat Kohli is the sort of captain who will want to win the Delhi Test, finish the series on a high and rub salt into South Africa’s tangible wounds. But should he also be looking to the future and make a few possible changes to India’s playing XI for Delhi Test?
As aforementioned, India’s problems in this series have been in the batting department. Murali Vijay is the leading run scorer in the series currently, with 195 runs, while Cheteshwar Pujara, with 160 runs, is the second-highest scorer from the Indian side. Although the tough batting conditions have been a reasonable excuse for the batting failures of not just India but also South Africa, Indian batsmen have been short on confidence and lacked the composure to survive on the sorts of pitches that are not alien to them.
Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan gave India a solid opening stand of 80 runs in Bengaluru, where the Test match got washed out after just the 1st day’s play. But the southpaw has had a tough series, overall, against the Proteas, with just one 50+ score to his name coming in the final one-dayer at the Wankhede Stadium and a relatively comfortable 45* in the first innings of the second Test. He has simply not been able to survive the testing phases early on in his innings, and more often than not, South Africa have easily dislodged Dhawan. Because this whole series has been a struggle for Dhawan, Kohli and the Indian team management ought to look at the option of bringing in Lokesh Rahul. The 23-year-old Karnataka opener scored a century (108) in the second-last Test he played for India, against Srilanka. Rahul for Dhawan would be one of the changes I would make if I was Kohli.
No Indian bowler who played in Nagpur deserves to be dropped for the Delhi Test, the pitch for which could once again be spinner-friendly. Kohli, therefore, would want to stick with the three spinners who produced flawless performances in the Orange city of India. The Indian Test skipper, though, is a fan of the 5-1-5 combination and could leave out one of the batsmen to make space for a bowler to come into the mix.
Rohit Sharma came in place of Varun Aaron for the 3rd Test in Nagpur. The Mumbai stylist did not produce anything of substance in the two innings, and the move to reinforce what was already a struggling batting lineup did not work out as desired. Though it would be harsh to drop him after giving him just one Test, India, if they want to experiment, could look into the option of bringing in another bowler.
I would like to see India move Ravindra Jadeja, who has made some crucial contributions with the bat already in this series, up the batting order, possibly ahead of Wriddhiman Saha. India ought to look to get the maximum out of the Saurashtra spinning all-rounder if he is going to feature consistently in the Indian Test side. That is the second change India should look to make to their playing XI for the Delhi Test beginning on Thursday.
India are not scheduled to play another Test series at least for the next 6 months. And that is another reason for the Indian team management to make a few changes to India’s playing XI for the Delhi Test. Making the aforementioned changes (2) would also reinvigorate the home side, and ensure that they are energised and focused on winning the series by a 3-0 margin.