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India vs New Zealand | From Shaw v Gill to Jadeja v Ashwin, the Selection Dilemmas for India

India vs New Zealand | From Shaw v Gill to Jadeja v Ashwin, the Selection Dilemmas for India

India have a problem of plenty in their Test line up, despite the injury to Rohit Sharma. What are the selection issues they face going into the first Test?

India are comfortably at the top of the ICC World Test Championship, with 360 points after three series. Incredibly, they have won each of their seven games in the championship so far. Their next challenge will be a stiff one, for they take on New Zealand in a two-Test series beginning with the first one in Wellington from Friday.

India have a problem of plenty in their Test line up, despite the injury to Rohit Sharma. What are the selection issues they face going into the first Test?

Prithvi Shaw v Shubman Gill

India were all set to go with Rohit as the opener until he got injured and ruled out of the series. It leaves the spot open for one of the two youngsters - Gill and Shaw.

Shaw has already played a couple of Tests, and made a century and a half-century. He even made his ODI debut in the three-match series prior to the Tests.

Gill hasn't made his Test debut yet, but has form by his side. His scores for India A in the two games against New Zealand A recently are 83, 204* and 136.

It looks like India will go with Shaw. Kohli hinted the same during the press conference on Wednesday, calling on Shaw to play his natural game. Shaw opened in the warm-up game as well, while Gill batted in the middle order. Neither of them impressed; in fact, both scored ducks in the first innings of that game. For now, the pointers are that Gill will have to wait for his Test debut while Shaw will partner Mayank Agarwal.

Hanuma Vihari set to return in middle order

Vihari was the highest run-scorer in India's previous away tour, to West Indies in 2019. Yet, he played only one match in the home run that followed. Such has been the competition for spots, but he's likely to slot back in to No. 6 in New Zealand.

A solid batsman, Vihari has been in stupendous form since arriving in New Zealand. He made 51, 100* and 59 against New Zealand A, and followed it up with a 101 against New Zealand XI in the warm-up game. It makes the decision easy for India - Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Vihari will form the crux of the batting order after the openers.

Wriddhiman Saha v Rishabh Pant

Since scoring 159* against Australia in Sydney a year ago, Pant has played only three Test innings. India went with the senior keeper-batsman in Wriddhiman Saha, citing superior keeping skills as a reason, justifiably.

Saha had an incredible season with the gloves and didn't do much wrong with the bat either. Pant, meanwhile, lost his spots in the white-ball formats as well with KL Rahul taking over the gloves.

Will the pendulum swing towards Pant once again, given India are playing abroad? In his brief Test career, Pant has already made centuries in England and Australia. Keeping to the turning ball won't be a factor as well, as it was in India. Or will India stick with Saha?

Pant batted above Saha in both the innings of the warm-up game, and scored more as well. Pant made 7 and 70, Saha scored 0 and 30*.

R Ashwin v Ravindra Jadeja

With two days to go for the game, the pitch at Wellington appeared as green as it could. However, Kohli ruled out playing four seamers, saying the XI will feature one spinner.

The choice is back to the Ashwin v Jadeja debate. India chose Jadeja over Ashwin in West Indies last year, while both (obviously) played in the home season. It's likely that India will stick to Jadeja this time as well, particularly for his much improved batting over the last year or so.

Ishant Sharma fitness a factor?

A few days before the Test, India got a boost with Ishant passing the fitness test and recovering from his ankle injury. He's back in the India nets now, and bowling at full tilt.

"He (Ishant) looked pretty normal and pretty similar to what he was bowling before the ankle injury. He is hitting good areas again and he has played (Test cricket) in New Zealand couple of times, so his experience will be useful to us," Kohli said of Ishant's fitness.

India could wait until the eve of the game to decide on Ishant's participation, given he hasn't had much game time. In case Ishant doesn't play, India always have Umesh Yadav as a more than able back up.

The pace attack will also see the return of Jasrit Bumrah. Bumrah is yet to play a Test at home, but is India's most crucial weapon abroad. He was the highest wicket taker in West Indies, and is yet to a play a Test after that due to his back injury. Back fit, and coming after a poor ODI series where he went wicketless, he'll be raring to show his class.

India likely XI: Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw; Middle order: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari; WK: Wriddhiman Saha, Spinner/all-rounder: Ravindra Jadeja, Pacers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.

first published:February 19, 2020, 14:09 IST