India take on England in the series deciding rescheduled 5th Test at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham on Friday and it will be interesting to see what playing XI they go ahead with. Captain Rohit Sharma is out with Covid and Jasprit Bumrah has been handed the opportunity to lead the team for the first time. Rishabh Pant will be the deputy to Bumrah. The Indians find themselves in a stiff position due to another omission as regular opener KL Rahul is out with an injury. The team management needs to decide whether it wants to draft in Mayank Agarwal or open with either Hanuma Vihari or Cheteshwar Pujara and play Shreyas Iyer a chance in the middle order.
The bigger question though will be the decision on the fifth bowling option. Several reports suggest the pitch might have something for spinners in it and in such a situation playing both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja could be an option. But given the way England are batting ever since Brendon McCullum took over as head coach, playing two slow bowlers could backfire. India though have the cushion of a 2-1 lead and a defeat won’t be catastrophic, but a victory will boost the team’s morale after the 1-2 loss to South Africa earlier this year. It would also give head coach Rahul Dravid something to show for his efforts over the past 8 months.
Here’s what we think will be the ideal playing XI for India
Shubman Gill: Gill needs to score a century in Test cricket. He knows that and he will be keen to do it at the biggest stage of it all. He has played several key knocks away from home but a triple figure is needed to cement his place at the top of the order. To do that he needs to curb his shot-making instincts, put his head down and bat time.
Mayank Agarwal: The brand new duke ball in England talks and that makes life very difficult for top order batters. In such circumstances it is important to open the batting with a specialist and that is why Mayank should get the nod.
Cheteshwar Pujara: If India are to win or draw this match, Cheteshwar Pujara will have to bat long and score runs. He is without a Test century since January 2019 and India needs him to get that now.
Virat Kohli: The former India captain would want India to win this series as it would be a satisfying end to his legacy as captain. India had taken a 2-1 lead under him last year. He too is in desperate need of big runs and if his form in the tour game against Leicestershire is anything to go by, Kohli is ready to fight it out against James Anderson and company.
Hanuma Vihari: The ever reliable Vihari would want to yet again contribute to the team’s cause. He has been rock solid in the middle order and will have to bat well with the tail again.
Rishabh Pant: If the bowlers dominate this match then Pant could hold the key with his attacking batting. If Pant gets going with the bat, he could prove to be the difference.
Ravichandran Ashwin: Ashwin has been a much improved bowler on away tours of late and this is another chance for him to showcase his worth as a match winner.
Shardul Thakur: India need a long batting line-up in England and Shardul provides just that. He ability to move the ball off the pitch will be important.
Mohammed Shami: India’s most consistent bowler needs to fire for the team. If Shami is on song then Joe Root and his mates are in for a contest.
Jasprit Bumrah: The captain will be burdened with additional responsibility but Bumrah looks like someone who likes to be in the spotlight. His additional pace will be handy in taming England’s aggressive batting.
Mohammed Siraj: He was off colour in the IPL but Siraj is a different bowler when playing for India. It would be harsh to keep Umesh Yadav out but Siraj is more consistent with his line and length in Tests.
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