India have come up against a determined opponent in Australia whilst battling fatigue after a long, long home season – some might say too long. But, one more match remains – the final one, that could decide how this long and tiring home campaign could be judged in the future.
Win it, and it will be four Test series' won – against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia – but lose it, and it will certainly add a bitter taste to what has, so far, been the sweetest of seasons.
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Dharamsala is the venue that will decide how India end the 13 Test match run at home, and, as always, the pitch will play a big part.
While a bit of grass and plenty of carry is the norm on the wickets at the HPCA Stadium, you feel, for this Test match, the pitch could turn out to be of the low and slow nature again.
Whatever the pitch conditions – barring it being a raging turner, like the one in Pune – what India need for this Test match, is an extra bowler. Not having an extra bowler hurt India in Ranchi, because, with the ball not doing much off the surface as it got softer, and the bowlers getting tired, having bowled quite a lot in the first innings as well, India could have used an extra option.
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Would Jayant Yadav have been effective in those conditions?
That is a question that cannot be answered, but having a Jayant, or even a Kuldeep Yadav, certainly would not have hurt, especially considering Karun Nair, the extra batsman, only contributed 23 runs to India's total of 603, and did not bowl a single over as a part-timer.
It's nice for the batsmen to have that extra cushion of knowing there is one extra player, but as Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha showed, knowing you cannot get out, gives you an extra edge while batting, makes you value your wicket more and with it comes more runs.
Would Ajinkya Rahane have played that daft shot, if, after him, there were only the bowlers and the wicketkeeper to come? Perhaps not, and that is the fear that needs to be there in the batsmen to ensure India get the most out of them.
So, going with the extra bowler could prove to be the best option.
If the Dharamsala pitch turns out to be hard and true, then India should bring in the extra seamer.
Virat Kohli hinted at recalling Mohammed Shami for the final Test match, so if that is the case, then that extra pacer battle should be between Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. In those conditions in Himachal Pradesh, Bhuvneshwar, who is an underrated bowler with the old ball, should be the better pick, and considering Ishant has taken all of three wickets in three Test matches, it really shouldn't be that difficult a decision to make, even if the tall fast bowler has bowled some tight lines on pitches that haven't given too much to the seamers.
If the pitch is on the slower side, and one that's expected to break down in the last three days, then Jayant or Kuldeep should come in. With Jayant showing his batting props since getting into the India team, it looks like the off-spinner will be the better bet, but having a left-arm chinaman could prove to be the X Factor in India's bowling.
Either way, India need to ask their five batsmen to do the bulk of the run-scoring job, like they did against England and New Zealand, and then put the responsibility on the five bowlers to get them the 20 wickets in the five days.
While ending the series with another draw will be far from a disaster, India, just to push down their dominance and show why they are the No.1 ranked team in the world, need a win in Dharamsala, and the extra bowler could be the one that sways it their way.
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