Hardik Returns? What India’s Playing XI Could Look Like in Motera

The Quint
·5-min read

In Chennai, in the second Test against England, it was business as usual for Virat Kohli and co as the spinners demolished the visitors without breaking into much of a sweat as the hosts roared back into the series.

Act 3 takes both sides to the newly refurbished Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, with the Pink-ball Test first on the agenda.

Home advantage, as expected, is one of the talking points ahead of the game, especially after Rohit Sharma put his weight behind it too ahead of the game.

"Pitch is the same for both teams. I don't know why people talk about it. For years, India has been making pitches like these. When we go abroad, nobody (none of us) says anything about the pitches there. We need to do what suits us. This is what home or away advantage is. If you take it out, (then) tell ICC to make a rule and say you should make similar pitches in India and abroad. Pitches shouldn't be discussed much," Rohit had said on Sunday.

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While that topic stole most of the headlines recently, India’s bowling was bolstered by the return of Umesh Yadav from injury, who cleared a fitness test a couple of days before the game. Cricbuzz reported that Shardul Thakur was allowed to leave the Indian bio-bubble and join the Mumbai side for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, paving the way for Umesh to make his return after injuring his calf in Melbourne.

The situation is a happy headache for the Indian think tank as they have more than a few options to go with in the bowling department for the 3rd Test.

Once again, barring untoward incidents, Rohit to Rishabh Pant pretty much pick themselves in the playing XI, but who will line-up with them in Motera?

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Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma during a training session.
Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma during a training session.

Three Pacers or Two?

The most pressing factor to consider while picking the bowling attack will be the dew, which is bound to trouble the spinners. India would not want to be in a bad position in the situation and are considering an extra seamer.

"We are exploring different scenarios about the Test and the main concern is neither twilight nor the pink ball. It is the dew factor that is a worry and we are thinking how to handle the situation. There is a lot of dew in the evenings and we want to make sure it does not become a major disadvantage," Cricbuzz quoted a source as saying.

A well-rested Jasprit Bumrah will definitely take his place in the playing XI and it is likely that Umesh Yadav will be drafted straight back in.

It is fairly likely that India will go with three seamers in the first Motera Test, which would mean breaking the spinning troika from the Chennai Test.

Who Partners Ashwin?

If the three-pronged pace attack becomes a reality due to the dew, India will be forced to make a harsh call with regards to Axar Patel or Kuldeep Yadav.

Axar had a fantastic debut in Chennai, while Kuldeep’s two wickets in the second innings would have definitely brought back some of his confidence.

Nonetheless, the scales tip towards Axar getting the nod for the third Test due to his batting abilities and the fact that gripping the pink ball might be a tad bit tougher for Kuldeep in comparison.

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Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel share a light moment in training at Motera.
Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel share a light moment in training at Motera.

Does Hardik Pandya Return?

One of the most dangerous all-rounders in world cricket today, Hardik Pandya has slowly but surely been working his way back to bowling full tilt having recovered from a back injury last year.

“Test cricket is a very different challenge altogether and we need him to bowl. We’ve spoken to him about it. That’s when he becomes that one guy who brings a lot of balance. If you’ve seen our cricket overseas as well, in South Africa and England, we were able to compete for longer periods through Test matches because of the fact that he brought a lot of balance in terms of his bowling. We’ve communicated that to him,” Kohli had said after the third T20I against Australia on the recently concluded tour.

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If Hardik, who provides more depth to the side, is feeling comfortable bowling full tilt, there is every chance that he makes the return to the Test side, which would then result in one of the frontline pacers will have to sit this one out.

There are some difficult decisions for the Indian think tank ahead of a crucial Test in the largest cricket stadium in the world. Expect Bharat Arun, Ravi Shastri, Virat Kohli and the rest of the coaching staff to be locked in deep discussions as they look to pick the perfect XI.

Predicted India Playing XI for 3rd Test in Ahmedabad: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma/Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.

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