With the one-off Test against Bangladesh starting just a fortnight before the much more important matter of a four-Test series against Australia, India have a window to experiment with their tried and tested playing XI and combination of five batsmen, four bowlers, one all rounder, and one wicketkeeper.
I am not suggesting that India should take the Mushfiqur Rahim-led Bangla Tigers lightly. And, with Virat Kohli at the helm, you can be assured that he will not let his troops rest on their laurels. India went unbeaten in 12 Tests in 2016 and Bangladesh are their first Test opponents in 2017. So, having gotten off to winning starts in the ODI and T20I series assignments in the new year, India must focus on making a winning start in the sport’s longest format as well.
And, make no mistake, Bangladesh will give India a contest.
The Indian selection committee, in accordance with the Lodha recommendations, now only has three members: former Indian Test opener Devang Gandhi, former Indian off-spinner Sarandeep Singh and MSK Prasad, a former Indian wicketkeeper, the current chairman of selectors. According to Lodha Panel’s recommendations, the selection committee members must have played Test cricket for India and that criterion is met by the trio aforementioned.
And they have named a 16-man squad for India’s one-off Test against Bangladesh, starting on 9th February (Thursday) at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
Indian squad for Bangladesh Test 2017: Virat Kohli (C), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Abhinav Mukund, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav (Amit Mishra), and Bhuvneshwar Kumar
India’s Playing XI for the Bangladesh Test 2017
Abhinav Mukund and Hardik Pandya are the “new faces” in the Indian squad for the solitary Test match against Bangladesh.
Mukund has played five Tests for India, with all of them coming in 2011 and away from home (in West Indies and England), too. The Tamil Nadu opening batsman was just over 21 years old back then and for an opening batsman, did play a couple of good knocks. But with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir reclaiming their places in the side after an injury layoff in 2011, because of which the Tamil Nadu southpaw got his break, Mukund unfortunately never got another look in.
He has been picked in an Indian squad for the first time since 2011, but Mukund comes into a side who have a working blueprint in place and whose openers have consistently scored runs and cemented their places. So, despite earning a call-up to the national side after a great Ranji Trophy season in which Mukund accrued a whopping 849 runs, the 27-year-old left-hander is unlikely to make the playing XI for the Bangladesh Test.
You can ask, why not, because essentially India have a window to experiment, right?
Abhinav Mukund could be played in Hyderabad, giving him the opportunity to become the backup opener for the Indian Test side at a time when Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan seem to be out of favour with the selectors. However, with an important Test series against Australia on the arisen, India will guard against affecting the balance of the side and the mood of established personnel, which Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul are, in the side. So, Mukund might have to wait for his opportunity.
The same concept does not apply to the other new face in the Indian squad for Bangladesh Test 2017, Hardik Pandya, who is an up and coming all-rounder for India.
If the Indian team management are willing to experiment, then Pandya could be accommodated in India’s playing XI for the Test against the Bangladeshis in Hyderabad. That is, if India compromise a bit on their existing blueprint and play a seam-bowling all-rounder like Pandya, instead of a specialist batsman or bowler.
Karun Nair played the last couple of Tests against England, in Mumbai and Chennai, as Ajinkya Rahane had to miss them due to a fracture to his right index finger. The Mumbai batsman is one of the first names on the team sheet when he is fit. And, albeit Nair will feel disappointed if he does not make the playing XI in Hyderabad after having scored an unbeaten 303 in his last Test, the Karnataka batsman has proved himself to be a capable replacement for the likes of Rahane and Rohit Sharma, should the Mumbai duo be unable to play a Test in the future.
As far as Hardik Pandya is concerned, I would play him in place of Amit Mishra, who played the fifth Test against England and has now had to drop out of the side with a knee injury which the Haryana leg-spinner picked up while playing the final T20I against England. Kuldeep Yadav, who wasn’t picked for the T20Is against England despite Ashwin and Jadeja being afforded a rest, has replaced Mishra in the Indian squad for the Bangladesh Test.
Pandya can bat anywhere from No. 7 to 9, and provide a few overs with the ball too, at a venue which is the among the better ones in India for pacers.
Now, Pandya, who has been named as the captain of the India A team to play against the touring Australians, is still young and has yet to show promise with his batting while his bowling has come through nicely in the last six months to a year. But India will never have a better opportunity than against Bangladesh to have a look at what the Baroda all-rounder can offer them in the longest format of the sport. When India travel abroad late this year and next year, they cannot play three spinners as they are doing now. And, in countries like England and Australia, Pandya could make the difference with his all-round skills.
India’s ideal playing XI for the Bangladesh Test in full: Virat Kohli*, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, and Umesh Yadav
Actual Indian playing XI for the Bangladesh Test 2017: Virat Kohli*, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, and Umesh Yadav
Kohli, in the relatively short time he has captained India in all three formats, has made a few surprise selection decisions: having been named as the stand-in captain for the first Test of India’s tour of Australia 2014-15, in Adelaide, Kohli picked Karn Sharma over Ravichandran Ashwin, which was described as a bold move. Karn, who plays for the Railways in the Ranji Trophy, hasn’t played a Test for India since.
And, most recently, having not picked Rishabh Pant in the first couple of T20Is against England, Kohli took everyone aback by bringing the 19-year-old Delhi left-hander into the playing XI for the decisive final T20I. So, Kohli might have a surprise up his sleeve for the Bangladesh Test too, starting on Thursday, but in my opinion, Hardik Pandya should be included in India’s playing XI.
Who, according to you, should play against Bangladesh in Hyderabad? Have your say in the comments section below.