Third Test v New Zealand: Likely Indian Playing XI for the Indore Test

India’s playing XI for the Indore Test, the last of the three-Test series between India and New Zealand 2016, should not have many changes apart from the obvious, straight swap(s). 

Two landmark Tests (500th Test overall and 250th home Test) and India have secured two comprehensive wins—by 197 and 178-run margins, respectively, in the Kanpur and Kolkata Tests—helping themselves to an unassailable 2-0 lead in the ongoing home Test series against New Zealand.

And in doing so,

Virat Kohli’s India have become the new No. 1 Test side, dethroning arch rivals Pakistan, who had done so themselves in August 2016, when they drew 2-2 in their four-Test series against England in England and India’s 0-2 Test series win in the West Indies proved insufficient to ward off Pakistan’s threat.

Learn:

India’s No. 1 Test Ranking Scenario

On that note, a related article for you to read:

Can Virat Kohli Lead Team India to Overseas Success?

From the visitors’ perspective, they have been good in patches and had started off this Test series against India on a bright note, but their failures to capitalise on favourable situations have cost them dear: in Kanpur, having been 1-152 at the start of third day’s play, they lost 9-110 and let India back into the game, albeit we cannot deny Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja credit for coming back strongly after having gone wicketless in their combined 31 overs on day two.

In Kolkata too, the Blackcaps were in a dominant position when they had India reeling at 6-200 on day one, but their failure to polish off the Indian lower-order and tail proved to be the watershed.

Read:

Was the Decision to Not Pick Gautam Gambhir for the Kolkata Test the Right One?

Looking ahead to the Indore Test, what is likely to be India’s playing XI? Could the XI which featured and won at the Eden Gardens, have any changes made to it?

Let us find out!

Likely Indian Playing XI for the Third Test v New Zealand

Well,

Before the start of the first Test, Ishant Sharma had incurred chikungunya and consequently could not play in Kanpur. Anil Kumble, in his pre-match presser, had said that he and the team management were hopeful of the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack recovering and playing some part in the series against New Zealand, and as a result did not ask for a replacement.

However,

Jayant Yadav and Gautam Gambhir were added to India’s 15-man squad, ahead of the Kolkata Test and after the revelation that Ishant could not recover from illness and Lokesh Rahul had injured his right hamstring while batting in the second innings of the Kanpur Test.

Read:

Part 1 of Cricfooty‘s Review of India’s Test Squad v New Zealand

Part 2 of Cricfooty’s Review of India’s Test Squad v New Zealand

The Indian squad has had a couple of more changes made to it before the Indore Test, which begins this Saturday (October 8th), with Karun Nair replacing Shikhar Dhawan, who fractured his left thumb while batting in India’s second innings of the Kolkata Test, and Shardul Thakur replacing Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who suffered a back strain during the Kolkata Test and has not recovered in time for the Indore Test.

The current Indian Test side led by Kohli and coached by Kumble, a man known for his dogged personality more than any other aspect, has no place for niceties and so, I do not expect them to make many changes to the playing XI apart from the unavoidable ones, for the Indore Test. Kohli and co. will want to whitewash New Zealand 3-0 and make an emphatic beginning to the long Indian home season.

Learn:

On What Sort of Pitches Should India Play During the 2016-17 Home Season?

Gambhir should come in for the injured Shikhar Dhawan and will be keen to harness this golden opportunity to potentially become India’s backup Test opener for the five-Test series against England. Presuming he plays in Indore, Gambhir will partner Murali Vijay at the top of the Indian batting line-up and coincidentally, M Vijay was Gambhir’s opening partner when the left-hander last played a Test match for India in August 2014 at the Oval.

Cheteshwar Pujara (231) and Rohit Sharma (187), who are the top two leading run-scorers in the ongoing Test series against New Zealand, have made valuable contributions and thereby assured themselves of their spots for India’s next Test assignment, which is against the touring England in November-December.

Ever since Rohit made his Indian Test debut in November 2013, the Pujara-Rohit duo have often been in a two-way tussle for one spot in India’s top or middle-order. But, in home conditions and with Kohli favouring the 6-1-4 combination, Pujara and Rohit are certainties in India’s playing XI, for the Indore Test and the upcoming 10 home Tests too, against England (five), Bangladesh (one) and Australia (four).

Read:

What Did Cheteshwar Pujara Have to Do, to Regain His Form?

Why Rohit Sharma Has Not Tasted Test Success Yet?

Kohli (C) and Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain) should slot in at their respective No. 4 and No. 5 batting positions for the third Test against the Blackcaps. The Indian Test skipper played a crucial knock of 45 in the second innings at the Eden Gardens, after he had accrued just 36 runs in the previous three innings. Kohli will want to build on that knock when he walks out to bat at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, which will be hosting its first-ever Test match.

In the batting department, therefore, apart from Gambhir for Shikhar Dhawan, there is unlikely to be any changes.

Notwithstanding valuable contributions with the bat from the likes of Pujara, Rohit and let us not forget Wriddhiman Saha’s unbeaten and crucial half-centuries (54* and 58*) in the Kolkata Test, the Indian bowlers have led the way and played the most significant part in India currently enjoying a 2-0 lead in the Test series v New Zealand. The entire bowling attack has fired over the two Tests and we cannot single out our praise only towards the spinners or the seamers, with Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar excelling at the Eden Gardens and Ashwin and R Jadeja spinning India to a victory at the Green Park.

Amit Mishra could be drafted into India’s playing XI in the name of experimentation or rotation, but is the Haryana leg-spinner a necessary addition? No, in my opinion. Of course, R Jadeja and Mishra do not have major differences in terms of what they can bring to the table. But, with R Jadeja having gotten himself into a good bowling rhythm and partnering well with the world’s best off-spinner, R Ashwin, I will not want to change what is a working combination if I was Kohli. Having said that, Mishra coming in for Jadeja in Indore is a possibility.

And finally,

In Indian conditions, playing three seamers is not an imperative. In Ishant’s absence, Shami becomes the leading pacer who will have either Bhuvneshwar or Umesh Yadav as his bowling partner. Umesh did a decent job in the Kanpur Test, for which he was a surprise selection. But then, the conditions in Kolkata and a newly-laid square at the Eden Gardens saw Umesh replaced by Bhuvneshwar, who went on to pick 6-76 in the match, the kind of performance that had made him a certainty to be a part of India’s playing XI for the Indore Test.

However, with Bhuvneshwar having suffered a back strain during the second Test and not recovered from the same, Thakur has been named as Bhuvneshwar’s replacement for the final Test v New Zealand. Thakur was part of India’s Test squad for the four-Test series in the Caribbean during July-August.

More importantly, Bhuvneshwar’s injury means Umesh is likely to come back into the Indian playing XI for the Indore Test and partner Shami.

So,

India’s Likely Playing XI in Indore: Virat Kohli (C), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammed Shami.

Summary

As you can see, the team management does not have much of a window to make changes to the playing XI which played in Kolkata and helped India seal the series. Mishra could be brought in for R Jadeja, apart from Gambhir coming in for S Dhawan and Umesh replacing the injured Bhuvneshwar, but even that possible change in the bowling department is unlikely!

Do you agree with Cricfooty’s opinion? Tell us in the comments below and we could have an interesting discussion!

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