India has produced plenty of white-ball stars.
Whether the T20 World Cup goes ahead or not, one thing is undoubtedly happening: an India tour of Australia.
With World Test Championships points on offer, India will be sending their strongest squad available, not to mention they want to repeat their 2018-19 feats against a stronger Australian side. With a long series and COVID-19 still in the air, I’ve gone ahead with a 20-man squad.
Batsmen: Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill
All-rounders: Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya
Wicketkeepers: Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha
Spinner: Kuldeep Yadav
Fast bowlers: Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Ishan Porel, Prasidh Krishna
This selection is a no-brainer. Agarwal has had close to a flawless career in his short Test career bar a few off games when touring New Zealand and the West Indies. He batted very well on debut in the Boxing Day Test in front of 70,000 fans at the MCG with a half-century.
Outside of India, Rohit Sharma averages 26.32 with a high score of 79 in Test cricket. But he’ll be coming as an opener instead of a middle-order batsman when he comes to our shores this time. The real question is whether he’ll be given the whole series to perform or will he be dropped if he doesn’t score runs in the first two Tests.
There’s no need to explain this inclusion after his feats against Australia two summers ago.
After India, Kohli has scored most of his Test runs in Australia. Another no-brainer.
He has struggled over the past 24 months, but I would back Rahane in a Test match any day of the week. Australian conditions have brought the best out of him, and I don’t expect anything less out of the Mumbai batsman when he comes Down Under.
Numbers don’t show how good Vihari has been for India. His technique is good enough to adapt to different conditions and score runs. He can be a left-field option to open if Rohit Sharma doesn’t do well in the first two Tests.
I see a lot of Virat Kohli in Gill. His hunger for runs is astounding. With a first-class average of 73.55 and 17 fifty-plus scores in 21 first-class matches, I do find it surprising for Gill to remain uncapped in Test cricket. While he is my back-up opener for this series, he can bat anywhere between one and six and score runs for India in Test cricket.
Rishabh Pant has delivered with the gloves for India in Test cricket, and his aggressive batting can cause havoc for opposition bowlers. His glove work is still improving, and he’ll become a better player as he gets older.
I’ve never seen someone in Indian cricket be so good behind the stumps. I would go as far as saying that Saha is India’s best gloveman in the 21st century (yes, better than MS Dhoni as well with the gloves). But this is Australia, and India prefers wicketkeeper-batsmen who can score runs consistently at number seven outside of the sub-continent. Thus, Saha will have to be content with carrying the drinks for the series.
No question about this. He is a brilliant Test bowler, batsman and fielder. The complete package.
India will take a seam-bowling all-rounder, and I had three options: Shivam Dube, Vijay Shankar or Hardik Pandya. Dube and Shankar have better first-class records than Pandya, but the Baroda all-rounder just made it. He bowls faster than Dube and Shankar and has a Test century and five-for. Pandya has unlimited potential, but he needs to show more consistency in the red-ball format to be the X-factor India have been craving.
There are a few reasons I’ve neglected Ravichandran Ashwin. Firstly, he has struggled to play the holding role as a spinner outside of Asia. When pitches don’t suit him, he does tend to disappear. Secondly, his fitness wasn’t great on India’s last Test tours of England and Australia. And that’s why I’ve gone ahead with Kuldeep Yadav as the second spinner. Kuldeep’s wrist spinners could see him partner Jadeja in the day-nighter at Adelaide, but he will surely play at the SCG. Plus, he averages 21 with the ball against Australia with a five-for in Australia.
Stuart Broad troubled David Warner with his around-the-wicket angles. Do not be surprised to see Ishant Sharma trouble Warner with the same method. Sharma is the perfect man to nullify Warner’s strength of hitting through the covers. Not only will Sharma hardly give Warner any width, he will very rarely stray onto his pads.
Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
No introduction needed for this quartet. Whoever partners Ishant Sharma, I would back all of them to deliver.
With the possibilities of seamers getting injured once cricket resumes, I’ve chosen an extra three seamers in this squad. Since his first-class debut for Delhi in late 2013, Saini has carved up opposition batsmen for fun in the Ranji Trophy. He has been in India’s Test squad a few times, so a debut isn’t far away. While I don’t know how fast he has bowled in the Ranji Trophy, Saini has clocked over 150 kilometres a few times in the IPL.
Porel is a highly talented quick. I believe he can be India’s Morne Morkel. An aggressive and tall quick, he bowls the uncomfortable length and uses his height to his advantage. With the bounce on offer in Australia, Ishan Porel’s form for Bengal has given him a real shout of making the Indian Test squad.
Krishna has only played nine first-class matches, but he’s shown how good he is in that short amount of time. With 34 wickets at a bowling average of 20.26, Krishna has gotten the eyes of India selectors. Similarly to Porel, Krishna can exploit the bounce in Australia. And he bowls at a rapid pace.