Only once before had Virat Kohli lost the first Test of a series since being made the official Test captain of India in June 2015. That defeat came on August 15th, 2015, against Srilanka in Galle. Kohli’s India recovered well, though, from an embarrassing defeat and won the three-Test series 1-2.
What’s also worth mentioning is, Kohli and co. went on a 19-Test unbeaten run after losing to the Lankan Lions in Galle. Until, the touring Australians, led by Steve Smith, brought to an end India’s magnificent run, which saw Kohli’s scale new heights as a Test side over a 560-day period, with their 333-run win in Pune last week. The win in Pune was Australia’s first in India since October 2004, coming a little more than 12 years after.
The gauntlet has now been laid down to India, who need to react positively when the second Test of the series begins in Bangalore on Saturday (March 4th). Following the heavy defeat in Pune, India went trekking in the Western Ghats on Monday. And we need to wait and see if the recreational activity has a positive effect on proceedings.
The Pune Test didn’t throw up any positives for the Indian Cricket team, who were battered by Australia in every department. India produced a “no-show” and the visitors took full advantage of India’s shoddy performance. The Indian bowlers and spinners weren’t helped by the poor batting and fielding displays and if they are to come back strongly, India must raise their overall game.
As always after a defeat as huge as the one India suffered in Pune, questions are asked about the playing XI and whether it needs changes. And, in this article, that’s precisely what we will be looking at.
India’s Playing XI for the 2nd Test vs Australia, in Bangalore
Ahead of the four-Test series against Australia, one of the conspicuous aspects about India was how settled they were in the batting and bowling departments. Yes, Kohli and the team management have seldom played with the same XI from one Test to another, but the odd change in personnel hasn’t affected the No. 1 Test side adversely.
Therefore, even though they endured a really poor Test match in Pune and must have been shocked by their own performance, I do not think India should make massive changes to their playing XI.
In Pune, they played four genuine bowlers and one all-rounder (Ravichandran Ashwin). And the Indian bowling unit cannot be blamed for Australia scoring 545 runs on a difficult batting pitch: numerous catches were dropped off Steve Smith’s blade alone in Australia’s second innings and the Indian batsmen didn’t help the bowlers by folding up for 105 in the first innings and conceding a huge, 155-run lead as a result.
India do have the option of reinforcing their batting line-up from the Pune Test, by bringing in Karun Nair for Jayant Yadav, who failed to have the desired impact with the ball and bat on his return to the playing XI. But then, going by reports, the Bangalore pitch is likely to assist the spinners from day three onwards. In which case, India will benefit from having three spinners.
Another reason why India should stick with the off-spinner Jayant is the number of left-handers in the Australian line-up (David Warner, Matthew Renshaw, Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood) and the variety of ways in which an off-spinner can dismiss a left-hand batsman (leg before wicket, bowled, caught behind, etc.) compared to when faced by a right-hand batsman.
Ishant Sharma bowled only 14 overs in the Pune Test and more importantly, delivered only three overs in the second innings. Kohli barely turned to him in Australia’s second innings, even when a partnership was blossoming.
Although he didn’t do a lot wrong in Pune, I think India can benefit from replacing Ishant with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is more of a swing bowler who will complement the potent Umesh Yadav wonderfully. Ishant and Umesh are similar bowlers: they hit the deck hard and consequently are to the Australian batsmen’s liking. Bhuvneshwar, though, with his inherent ability to swing the ball, is likely to pose a far bigger challenge to Australia than Ishant probably will.
Kohli has generally not favoured Bhuvneshwar, possibly because the UP seamer is a little short on pace compared to others and can get predictable if the ball doesn’t swing for him. But Bhuvneshwar is a vastly improved bowler and Kohli and the team management should include him in the XI for Bangalore Test.
India’s ideal playing XI for the Bangalore Test in full: Virat Kohli*, Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Umesh Yadav
Actual playing XI for India: Virat Kohli*, Abhinav Mukund, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Umesh Yadav
Making changes to their playing XI will suggest to Australia that India have panicked and give the Aussies a psychological edge. And, rationally speaking, India are still a very good side on paper. Yes, you do not gain anything by being very good on paper, but the entire Indian side had a really poor Test match in Pune and need to bounce back. Making wholesale changes to the XI won’t automatically get the job done, though.
Who would you like to see play in Bangalore?