Virat Kohli and his availability for the fourth Test match is, understandably, the big team news story ahead of the fourth Test match in Dharamsala. However, India have another one or two key team decisions to make going into this series-decider against Australia.
Kohli, unless something drastic happens on Friday, looks likely to play this match in Dharamsala, even if Shreyas Iyer has been called in as cover. While India really should not be risking their captain, considering the importance of this match, it is difficult to envisage Kohli not making it in the playing XI.
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Even if Kohli makes it or not, India do have a few things to ponder upon, chief of them being the balance of the side.
After the Pune debacle, India have gone with the extra batsman in the next two Tests, and while that decision proved to be the right one in Bengaluru, it worked against the home team in Ranchi. With the wicket not quite deteriorating as much as expected, India, with only four bowlers, struggled to get the 20 wickets that were needed for a 2-1 series lead.
So, the question is, do India go with the extra bowler in Dharamsala, or do they stick with the six specialist batsmen?
The pitch is expected to have pace and bounce – at least, that is what the curator insists – so India could go in with the extra pace bowler.
If the wicket is expected to help the bowlers, though, there might be a case for sticking to the four bowler theory
Much will depend on how good a batting surface it is. The better it is for the batsmen, the more India need an extra bowler.
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Depending on the nature of the wicket, that extra bowler can be a pacer or a spinner, but if India want to really go for the jugular, they might be better off sticking the extra bowler in and asking their five pure batsmen to take the responsibility of scoring the majority of the runs.
If an extra pacer comes in, it will be Bhuvneshwar Kumar, with the team management confirming Mohammed Shami would not be considered. Bhuvneshwar might have a chance even if India go with four bowlers or the extra spinner, what with Ishant Sharma unable to pick up wickets in this series.
Kuldeep Yadav is still there in the squad, but the extra spinner, if chosen, should be Jayant Yadav, with the off-spinner also capable of chipping in nicely with the bat.
Australia might decide to drop a spinner in favour of the extra fast bowler, if they feel the pitch demands it. Steve O'Keefe is the one likely to make way, if that is the case, with Jackson Bird coming in to assist Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. The injury-plagued Cummins had a few tests done in Delhi just to make sure the Ranchi exertions hadn't taken a toll, and he has been passed fir for the Dharamsala match.
Apart from that one possible bowling change, though, Australia are likely to stick to the same playing XI, especially after Glenn Maxwell justified his spot in the team with a hundred in Ranchi.
Expected playing XI:
India: KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Jayant Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
Australia: Matt Renshaw, David Warner, Steve Smith (C), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Steve O'Keefe, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
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