After their thumping 10-wicket win against England in the third Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium at Motera in Ahmedabad and all the debate surrounding the challenging and difficult pitch at the venue, India is unlikely to prepare a rank turner for the fourth and final Test at the same venue. With an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series, the home team just needs a draw in the final Test to secure a place in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) at Lord’s in June alongside New Zealand.
India will not risk a similar wicket to the third Test for a couple of reasons. One, as in the first innings in the Day and Night Test, the move can backfire and their own batsmen may find it difficult against the likes of Jack Leach and co. India cannot afford to lose the Test as that would rule them out of the WTC final. Secondly, the home administration would not want to produce two ‘tough’ pitches at their new iconic stadium in back to back matches – that may lead to tensions between the ICC and the BCCI.
Keeping the above in mind sources reveal that the wicket for the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad will be a batting paradise with lots of runs in store for both the teams. It will be interesting to see the XI India field in Motera with their lead pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah granted personal leave to rest and manage his workload.
Will Mayank Agarwal get a look in?
Shubman Gill could muster just 11 in the first innings in Ahmedabad and had a rare failure in the second Test in Chennai where he registered a duck in the first innings and only 14 in the second. The stylish right-hander has been very impressive in his short Test career so far but has looked a touch out of sorts in the last few innings.
India have another option at the top of the order in Mayank Agarwal. The dynamic Indian opener was dropped due to his poor overseas returns despite having a splendid start at home in India where he scored 597 runs in 6 innings at an average of 99.5 and strike rate of almost 62. All of Agarwal’s three Test hundreds have come at home. Maybe it would not be a bad idea to give Gill a break and draft in Agarwal for the last Test.
India will persist with Rahane but should they?
The Indian skipper Virat Kohli has made it clear that Ajinkya Rahane is a senior batsman of the team and will not be dropped from the XI. But if one goes purely on numbers then Rahane is on thin ice. Rahane has produced two noteworthy contributions with the bat in 17 innings since the beginning of 2020 – one, his majestic hundred at the MCG and the other the fine 67 in difficult circumstances and tough conditions in the first innings of the second Test in Chennai. But what about his numbers in the remaining 15 innings?
Rahane has an aggregate of 265 runs at a batting average of just 18.93 in these matches. His inconsistency is putting enormous pressure on the top 4 and also on the lower-order. Ideally, India should give a younger batsman of the calibre of KL Rahul a chance at number 5. Rahul has the ability to do what VVS Laxman did in the lower half for India – score tough runs batting with the tail. He can also score at a high tempo and form a formidable partnership with Rishabh Pant in the lower order.
Kuldeep Yadav Should Replace Washington Sundar
Washington Sundar has been impressive with the bat but cannot occupy a position in the XI, especially at home, as a batting all-rounder if he does not contribute with the ball.
Sundar has bowled 76.4 overs in 5 innings and picked just 5 wickets at a bowling average of 53.8 and strike rate of 92 in his Test career so far. He has neither looked threatening nor been restrictive. His returns with the ball in Test cricket are not good enough for the role of the third spinner. Sundar bowled just one solitary over in the second innings of the series opener in Chennai, did not bowl at all in the first innings on a helpful track at Motera and delivered just four balls in the second innings.
Umesh Likely to Replace Bumrah
If the wicket for the fourth Test is a good batting track India will need raw pace and that little bit extra with the ball to trouble the England batsmen. In such a scenario, Umesh Yadav will be a better candidate than the impressive Mohammed Siraj. The latter was the highest wicket-taker for India Down Under and raised his game in the absence of the pace quartet. But Siraj may not necessarily have the arsenal to run through a batting line-up and is more of a support act who can bowl a consistent line and length for long periods.
Umesh has been amongst the best fast bowlers in the world since 2018. During this period he has taken 49 wickets in 12 Tests at an average of 19.71. His strike rate of 35.1 is the best in the world amongst all fast bowlers in this time-frame. He also has the ability to make the old ball talk and reverse with an excellent record in India in the last few years. Umesh has picked 38 wickets in just 7 home Tests since 2018 at a brilliant average of 13.86 and strike rate of 24.3 including two five-wickets in an innings and one ten-wickets in a match haul.
So, this is India’s likely XI for the fourth and final Test at Motera:
1. Rohit Sharma
2. Shubman Gill/ Mayank Agarwal
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
4. Virat Kohli (c)
5. Ajinkya Rahane
6. Rishabh Pant (wk)
7. R Ashwin
8. Axar Patel
9. Ishant Sharma
10. Kuldeep Yadav
11. Umesh Yadav