What India needs to do to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy

In the fourth Test in Dharamshala, which India has to win to snatch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from holder Australia, the host may have to play five bowlers.

Virat Kohli, seemingly pre-occupied by on-and off-field verbal duels, needs to focus on batting for the runs to flow.   -  AFP

With dust settling on the third Test here, the focus is now on the decider at the picturesque Dharamshala.

Significantly, the Test here reflected Australians’ growing confidence against Indian spin. Consequently, the host might have to take a crucial decision ahead of the fourth Test.

The Australian batsmen, save the out-of-form and strangely defensive David Warner, are becoming increasingly familiar with the methods of the Indian spinners. They are reading them better, both from the hand and off the pitch.

READ: Day 5 report

In a nutshell, the Australians have been picking the length very well; the key to playing spin really.

Both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have also sent down more than 4000 deliveries each this home season and their spinning fingers could be a tad tired.

Under the circumstances, in a Test that India has to win to snatch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from holder Australia, the host may have to play five bowlers.

Such a ploy will also provide Virat Kohli greater flexibility in rotating the attack. In the third Test here, there were occasions when the Indian captain appeared a bowler short.

Jayant Yadav, a fine off-spinner, might provide Kohli that additional bowling option. A well-rounded batsman, he could also add depth to the lower order.

Left-arm spinning all-rounder Jadeja is on top in rankings but failed to bowl India to victory on the final day when conditions suited his style of bowling.

He would do well to add the arm-ball – the delivery that comes in with the arm and hurries off the pitch – to his repertoire. This is a key ball for a left-arm spinner.

On the final day in Ranchi, the Australian batsman handled him rather comfortably off the back-foot and a potent arm ball might have prevented them from doing that.

For India, the emergence of Cheteshwar Pujara as the great Indian barrier is welcome news. The self-effacing Pujara is perhaps at the peak of his career; his technique, judgment and temperament are in perfect harmony.   

He has the shots but when the situation demands, Pujara can get into the sort of defensive mode that takes us back to those long grinding innings of the 1970s and 80s. It’s quite extraordinary that in today’s cricketing world of the big money and the IPL, we still have a Pujara who brings with him old fashioned values in his approach, style and endless patience.

When Pujara occupies the crease, he invariably builds partnerships along the way, giving India a better chance of recovering even if wickets are lost. For instance, take his influential partnership here with the spunky wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha, who has emerged as the man of crisis in the Indian lower order.

And Pujara’s duel with the hostile Pat Cummins late on day three has to be among the highlights of the Test. The Aussies sent down some searing short-pitched stuff of extreme pace, however, Pujara negotiated them with the calmness of a hermit.

While openers Murali Vijay and K. L. Rahul, both elegant and assured, are in form, India needs runs from Kohli. But then, the Indian captain’s mind appears pre-occupied by on-and off-field incidents rather than the duel between the bat and the ball. Kohli has to put his thought and focus on batting. Then, the runs will arrive.

Like they have been flowing for his counterpart Steven Smith; this Aussie’s bat keeps getting broader.

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