Kohli struggles, Jaiswal in line for Test debut as India sweats ahead of opener against West Indies

Jaiswal’s Test debut is a matter of time but what could be a subject of discussion is his usual batting slot which is opening or one down, a position that the seasoned Cheteshwar Pujara was forced to vacate after nearly three years.

Published : Jul 06, 2023 16:42 IST , Bridgetown (Barbados) - 3 MINS READ

Former India Test skipper Virat Kohli gears up to bat during the WTC final against Australia.
Former India Test skipper Virat Kohli gears up to bat during the WTC final against Australia. | Photo Credit: AFP

Former India Test skipper Virat Kohli gears up to bat during the WTC final against Australia. | Photo Credit: AFP

Virat Kohli’s struggles outside the off-stump continued as he was once again snapped behind the stumps during an intra-squad practice game while Yashasvi Jaiswal made strong claims for a coveted Test cap ahead of the series opener against the West Indies.

The Indian team included some local club cricketers along with its own 16 players for the two-day training-cum-practice game. The first Test begins on July 12.

Kohli, whose problems against deliveries on the corridor of uncertainty, is well documented, saw veteran left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat exploit it early on his spell.

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The left-armer’s angle is an awkward one and Unadkat bowled one outside the off-stump, and India’s No. 1 batter, without any distinct footwork, went after it only to be caught by a local fielder stationed at first slip.

Kohli’s dismissals in Test cricket have had a pattern and the canny Unadkat hit the right line and length to get the prized scalp.

The idea was match simulation keeping all the top-order batters in one team while the other group was loaded with bowlers.

Most of the batters retired after playing around 50 to 75 balls with Jaiswal doing his cause no harm with a 54 off 76 balls before taking a break.

Will Jaiswal open or bat at No. 3?

With Pujara being axed, the 20-year-old Jasiwal was seen opening the batting with skipper Rohit Sharma. An on-drive off Mohammed Siraj and a rasping square cut off Unadkat had class written all over it.

While Jaiswal got to play 76 balls, his skipper settled for 67 balls before retiring.

However, Jaiswal’s promotion ahead of regular opener Shubman Gill is an indication that head coach Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit are thinking of blooding the young Mumbai batter as an opener.

The long-term plan of the Indian team management could see them use Shubman Gill as their No. 3 batter and try out Jaiswal as an opener.

It must be mentioned that Gill, who has been one of the most consistent batters in recent times, is actually a middle-order player, who preferred to play at No. 3 or 4 during his days as India U-19 and India A player.

In fact, it was under Dravid’s coaching in the age-group and pathways (India A) team that Gill had batted in the middle-order.

He has a double hundred (204) in an ‘A’ Test against the West Indies in 2019 in Tarouba. In that innings, he batted at No. 5 (virtually No. 4) as Shahbaz Nadeem was sent in as night-watchman on the second evening.

With Kohli taking his spot at No. 4 and Ajinkya Rahane at No. 5, along with Ravindra Jadeja at No. 6 and KS Bharath at No. 7, the batting order looks more or less sorted.

Ashwin second spinner, Shardul seam bowling all-rounder 

On a predominantly dry track at the Dominica, Ravichandran Ashwin is likely to be the second spinner while Shardul Thakur will be the third seamer and lower middle-order enforcer. Shardul and Ashwin will take care of slot Nos. 8 and 9 respectively.

While Mohammed Siraj automatically selects himself as the leader of the pack, the choice for the second new ball bowler could be a tough one.

Besides rookie Mukesh Kumar’s good form and incisive seam bowling, Navdeep Saini adds an extra yard of pace in the line-up, and Unadkat brings in the left-armer’s angle and requisite variation in the attack.

The only place which could be debated is this particular bowling slot where three players have their cases.

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