India should not pick the playing XI for the World Test Championship final with a pre-determined mindset as it did two years ago, says former chief selector MSK Prasad, who feels it would be very tough to fill the injured Rishabh Pant’s shoes as his overseas feats are unparalleled.
India’s move to pick two spinners - Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - in the 2021 WTC final against New Zealand backfired as pacers dominated the game in overcast conditions at Southampton.
Spin could play a role in the final against Australia at The Oval in London from June 7, but Prasad advised the team to take the final call depending on the conditions at that time.
“We went with two spinners and three fast bowlers in the mind but subsequently there was rain, we should have changed our plans, somehow we stuck to the same playing eleven. But that is in the past.
“It all depends on conditions at The Oval. The is the actual story of the movie, the pitch and conditions. We don’t know how they will be over five days, so we should not pre-fix our mind and understand the conditions and back your instincts,” the former India wicketkeeper told PTI.
‘No other India keeper has done what Pant has done’
Pant, who has scored centuries in England, Australia and South Africa, won’t be available to counter-attack if the top-order fails. Prasad feels K S Bharat is the automatic choice in Pant’s absence but the latter’s ability as a batter is rare.
“It is a pretty straightforward call to pick Bharat (over Ishan Kishan). It is really tough to fill the shoes of Rishabh especially in an away series. In the history of entire India cricket, no other wicketkeeper batter has hundreds in England, South Africa and Australia, so it’s very difficult to replace him.
“You need to have a wicketkepeer who is fit and fine for 100 overs. This is a Test match and we need to think from that aspect.
“But if you are thinking you can have Ishan Kishan, Bharat has been tried and tested and has played India A in England, so they might end up going with him,” said Prasad, who was the chief selector between 2016 and 2020.
‘How India’s top-order fares against Aussie pace attack will decide the game’
India’s star-studded top four comprising Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are expected to deliver against the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. Ajinkya Rahane at five also adds to the experience of the batting unit.
“That is going to decide the fate of the game. How our top order is going to face their fast bowling.
“With Gill in the form of his life, Rohit already has a hundred in England, Kohli has been in great form and Pujara has got a lot of runs in county cricket and Ajinkya with his experience, it is the best we can have, they have to fight and win the game,” Prasad said.
‘Gill has shown he can adapt to formats’
Gill has recorded centuries across formats in the last six months and was the standout batter in the IPL.
“It is all about the mindset and Gill has adapted to different formats now. In IPL he did say about technical changes he made in his batting to improve strike rate. So, if a player can change his mindset as per format he is going to do well in any format.
“That is what he has done across formats. I hope he will replicate that form in England,” said the 48-year-old who played six Tests and 17 ODIs between 1998-99.
‘Hard to ignore both Jadeja and Ashwin if need arises’
If India does go with four pacers, then choosing between Ashwin and Jadeja becomes very difficult considering what they bring to the table, said Prasad.
“Jadeja has been so good of late that he can play as a specialist batter. It is a tricky call considering what both can bring to the table, it is hard to ignore. Ashwin with his 400 plus wickets and he is someone who is who can bowl on any surface. If it comes to that, it will be a very tough call,” he said.
Another tough call will be to choose between Umesh Yadav and all-rounder Shardul Thakur.
“That is the trickiest part. If you see the statistics, Umesh is more successful in home conditions compared to away conditions, so picking Shardul gives you that batting advantage. You need to have long batting depth also against a quality attack like Australia,” Prasad added.
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