The Indian playing XI that lost to England by an innings and 76 runs in the third Test at Headingley last week is likely to ring in changes to the bowling attack due to the short turnaround in the last three Test matches.
The last three Test matches, including the one that concluded at Headingley are being played inside three weeks and with the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the T20 World Cup coming up over the next two-and-a-half months, the pace bowlers may require some rest.
“That (rotation) is bound to happen. That is a very logical and sensible thing to do. You obviously don’t want to push individuals to a place where they break, so that conversation is very important and a very sensible and logical," India skipper Virat Kohli had said after the end of the the third Test.
On the basis of performance, R Ashwin or Shardul Thakur coming in for off-colour Ishant Sharma looks the most obvious change.
Both Ashwin and Thakur could also come in if the team management decides to also rest one of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami or Mohammed Siraj besides Ishant.
Ishant, although part of Delhi Capitals in IPL, won’t be in India’s scheme for the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will, therefore, not have as long a season as Jasprit Bumrah, who will definitely be part of India’s T20 squad. Mohammed Shami could also be.
Apart from being key to India’s T20 World Cup campaign, Bumrah will also be key to Mumbai Indians during the remainder of IPL, that begins on September 19. Shami too is Punjab Kings’ lead bowler in the IPL.
Fellow pacer Mohammed Siraj also looked to have a slight worry during a phase of play in the third Test. The right-armer is a key cog in the wheels of Royal Challengers Bangalore, a franchise that Kohli leads.
“We will assess who is placed where physically and who needs to have a game off. You can’t expect with a short turnaround like this to play four Tests in a row. So we have to assess who are the guys given that many days to recover and then we will see," Kohli had added.
The pitch at The Oval is the flattest and most batting-friendly surface in England, according to former India captain and opener Sunil Gavaskar.
It may require long spells of bowling which may test or exhaust Ishant, who will turn 33 on the day the Test starts. He looked quite off-colour in the third Test and didn’t show the burst of energy in his bowling that he usually does. Kohli though refused to accept that there was anything wrong with Ishant.
It is clear though that there will be changes in bowling, whether due to rest and rotation, or because of performance. The team management has a task at hand in balancing the long season with current form of bowlers.