While fielding four pacers against Australia in the World Test Championship final at The Oval may be tempting given the circumstances, Rohit Sharma is aware that the pitch conditions may quickly alter.
It was early in the morning, and it was freezing. The temperature had soared to 12 degrees Celsius by the time the Indian team arrived at The Oval on the eve of the World Test Championship final. It had risen because it had been cooler earlier. The wind blew over the stadium, and India captain Rohit Sharma appeared to have been dragged out of bed for the news conference. Perhaps getting up early counts as warm-up as well.
When asked about the pitch, India’s captain stated, “I didn’t have a chance to see it today.” The press conference began at 9.15 a.m., which was unexpected.
He stated it jokingly, although the game is slated to begin at 10:30 a.m., which is 30 minutes sooner than normal. If the weather remains the same – read ‘cold, cloudy and windy’ – India’s two-spinner hypothesis will be abandoned, and they would have to field four pacers instead.
“It appears that there will be some assistance for the seamen,” Sharma added. “With the overhead conditions, it’s going to help seamers a lot.” I’m not sure how much, but the pitch varies a lot in this region of the world. For example, it looked pretty similar to this when we played the previous Test here. And then, as the game progressed, as the day progressed, it grew better and better, slower and slower. On Day 5, the reverse swing was also used. So, yes, we will evaluate all of those aspects and choose the best combination for us to go.”
For the time being, India is keeping their cards close to their breast because, as Rohit put it, “that’s a common answer, I think.”
A little sarcasm, but a little audacity never hurt anyone. It actually improves the mood. The key for India, though, may be experience; experience as bowlers in taking advantage of the circumstances and experience as hitters in dealing with them.
The batting order appears to be set, with Ajinkya Rahane (who turned 35 on Tuesday) expected to receive the lead due to his expertise in these conditions. At his prime, he was one of India’s most reliable and established abroad performers. His away average of 40.28 continues to outperform his home average of 35.73. The rest almost choose themselves.
Shubman Gill and Sharma opened the innings, followed by Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3, Virat Kohli at No. 4, and Rahane at No. 5.
On the bowling front, Umesh appears to have the upper hand against Jaydev Unadkat. It’s hardly much, but Umesh has two Tests in England and Unadkat has none. That’s two Tests out of 56 in a career that began in 2011. Unadkat, on the other hand, made his debut in 2010 but has only played one more Test since.
The key decision will be whether to use three or four seamers. As Sharma stated, situations might alter throughout the game. On Day 5 of India’s previous encounter at the location, the ball was even reverse swinging. If India decides to go with four bowlers, Shardul Thakur might be considered, not just for his bowling but also for his aggressive batting.