Former India coach Ravi Shastri wants in-form batter Shubman Gill to be in the playing XI ahead of vice-captain KL Rahul in the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar series, beginning in Nagpur on Thursday.
The former India all-rounder also said vice-captaincy should not guarantee one a place in the playing eleven if someone like Gill is hitting the sweet spot with monotonous regularity in white-ball cricket.
Picking his XI for the opening game of the four-Test series, Shastri also said no one comes close to Suryakumar Yadav at No.5, and the middle-order T20I batter should get his preferred position in the series.
“Shubman or Rahul (selection) depends on the team management, what they think. Obviously, you’d want to go with what you’ve been doing in the past, but form becomes critical.
“Someone’s hitting it real sweet and it’s coming out of the centre of the bat. Then, you know, you wake up, and say, ‘listen’,” Shastri said on the ICC Review on Wednesday.
“I’ve been watching Gill and Rahul very closely in the nets. If it’s a hard call; when I see footwork, when I see timing as to who is batting better. If it has to be Shubman ahead of Rahul, so be it. You know, straight. You have to see that. I won’t say that Rahul is the vice-captain so he becomes the automatic choice.” A lot of heat has been generated in the Australian media about India preparing “doctored pitches”, but Shastri emphatically said he wanted the ball to turn square as there was no harm in capitalising on the home advantage.
“If someone asks me what kind of pitch? Expect that. If you lose the toss, expect the ball to turn in the first session of play. That’s what I want, and take it from there.” “My mindset would be, ‘How can I beat Australia 4-0 if I’m the coach’, which means day one, I want a ball to pitch on leg stump and hit off stump. I want it to rip.” The former India all-rounder wants wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav to do that job and weave his “magic” around the Australian batters.
“I’d like to see some magic. I’d like to see some Kuldeep Yadav stuff. If you lose the toss on day one, if it’s a good pitch where it’s not turning, the finger spinner is not getting enough, I want a leg-spinner to be able to rip it. Spin it before probably any other spinner in the game,” added Shastri.
He also added that India being the host should strive for a 4-0 victory.
“India should look to win 4-0, we’re playing at home. I’m brutal. I’ve been to two tours of Australia, I know what’s happened,” Shastri said.
With Suryakumar in the form of his life in T20 cricket, his presence in the squad has added to the intrigue ahead of the Nagpur Test. But Shastri said the team management should not look beyond the charismatic batter and hand him the Test debut.
“At number five, Suryakumar will get the position, because there’s no Shreyas (Iyer). There’ll be talk about, ‘can Gill bat at five?’ I think you need the right guy for the right number. At five, when you go there, especially if the ball is turning, then you need someone who is good at playing the right shots against spin.
“Surya demands that position. I think it’s straightforward.”