India are set to beat New Zealand in the second Test with Ravichandran Ashwin taking three second-innings wickets as the visitors, chasing 540, fell to 5-140.
Virat Kohli is arguably one of the best batsmen in world cricket. When you combine all three formats, you would be hard pressed to see a batsman with such an exemplary record.
But the one place Virat has always faltered has been in selecting the right XI – especially in Test matches.
The South African tour saw him drop Ajinkya Rahane in the first two Tests, which cost India some important runs.
Virat has always been adventurous with his team selections and sometimes that has gotten in the way of finding the right combination for the team. The upcoming Test series against England will leave the Indian captain with some selection headaches.
India have picked three openers for the upcoming Test series. KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan will be competing for the two spots in the XI.
Shikhar Dhawan played the first Test in South Africa and was replaced by Rahul for the next two Tests. Rahul himself did not have a great series with the bat. So, it will be interesting to see who will be the two openers for the first Test.
The middle order, however, looks more settled. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli will be the key members of the batting line-up.
The wicketkeeping spot received a jolt as well, as India’s first choice keeper Wriddhiman Saha is out for the series. India now has to decide between Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant.
Karthik was part of India’s successful 2007 campaign and scored lots of runs as an opener. Pant, though, gives India an exciting choice at No. 6. The young batsman has been playing in England over the last couple of months and has scored lots of runs in both the formats he has played in.
The No. 7 spot will most likely be occupied by Hardik Pandya.
Hardik, who had a great start in the South African Test series, faded away by the end of it. Even though he provides India with the right balance, the captain will want him to be more consistent with either discipline.
The bowling attack received another major setback with both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah missing due to injury. This leaves India Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami to pick from.
India also need to decide whether they want to go with two spinners or just one. Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav are the three options the Indian captain has.
Ashwin will most likely be the first choice spinner, as he provides India with a batting option at No. 8. He has batted as high as six for India in Test matches.
In the absence of Kumar, Sharma most likely will be the leader of the attack. Shami is just making a comeback from injury, but the general consensus is that he is India’s best Test pacer, so he will most likely partner Ishant with the new ball.
The last spot will be between Kuldeep Yadav and Umesh Yadav, depending on the combination India decide to play.
So, problems aplenty for Virat Kohli and some important decisions to be made ahead of the first Test match at Edgbaston.
The four-day game against Essex will be crucial, as it is the only chance for the visitors to determine the fitness and form of the players ahead of the first Test.
Virat Kohli has always made some left field decisions in his short career as captain. He has been successful in a few and has failed in a few, but he will know that making the right call will be crucial to India’s chances in this series.
My probable XI: KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav/Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma.