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Explained: Here’s why Ravindra Jadeja for Virat Kohli is a radical selection shift

Shubman Gill for Prithvi Shaw, Mohammed Siraj for Mohammed Shami and Rishabh Pant for Wriddhiman Saha can be termed like-for-like replacement, but the one that seems a bit radical is Ravindra Jadeja coming in for Virat Kohli.

Written by Tushar Bhaduri , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | December 25, 2020 2:37:51 pm
What Jadeja brings to the table is a fifth bowling option, probably the best in the world right now. (Twitter/@imjadeja)

Four changes in a Test match side will normally be considered drastic, but the playing XI picked by Team India’s think tank for the Boxing Day Test match are understandable in the backdrop of the Adelaide debacle.

Shubman Gill for Prithvi Shaw, Mohammed Siraj for Mohammed Shami and Rishabh Pant for Wriddhiman Saha can be termed like-for-like replacement, but the one that seems a bit radical is Ravindra Jadeja coming in for regular skipper Virat Kohli. It changes the whole dynamic and balance of the side. India seems to be taking the aggressive options for the Melbourne Test starting on Saturday.

Can an all-rounder replace Batsman No.1?

The left-arm spinner’s batting has improved considerably in recent times, but he will not be expected to contribute to Kohli’s quantum of runs. What he brings to the table is a fifth bowling option, probably the best in the world right now. He will not be considered a specialist batsman, but he has shown in the past that he can come to the party when the chips are down. And if the MCG pitch is slow and flat as it has been in recent times, the extra spin option will be handy, both as a wicket-taking and containment option.

Gill for Shaw expected

Shaw’s technical deficiencies on pitches that do a little bit were laid bare in Adelaide. Gill is a much more solid and technically-proficient batsman, and his game is well suited to the Aussie conditions with the extra bounce. He has scored most of his First-Class runs as an opener for Punjab, and a Test debut has been considered long overdue. He could protect the middle order, already missing Kohli, from the new ball. The dressing room will be a calmer place.

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India players before a practice session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. (BCCI)

Is Pant for Saha a gamble?

There is hardly any doubt that Saha is the most accomplished gloveman in India, but there’s a line of thinking that his skills are required more in sub-continental conditions while standing up to spinners. The Bengal player is a stubborn batsman who has scored vital runs in the past, but Pant has the ability to change a game with the bat in a short period of time. With Kohli absent, the team management may have been looking for someone to take the aggressive option and put pressure back on the Australian bowlers. And Pant is likely to be reliable behind the stumps against seamers. They will keep their fingers crossed that he doesn’t make any mistakes while ’keeping to spinners.

Siraj preferred over Saini

This is a forced change. Shami bowls a heavy ball and can run through a batting order if he is in the mood. Siraj is more a swing bowler who can be effective if there’s assistance available. He also has a better First-Class and A-team record than Navdeep Saini, who was the other option for this spot. Siraj and Umesh Yadav can be a handy new-ball pairing, keeping the threat of Jasprit Bumrah as first change. Saini would have been preferred if the pitch was expected to be quicker.

Finally, what about KL Rahul?

Rahul’s pedigree with the bat is not in doubt. He is on his third Test tour of Australia and even has a hundred there. He also gives the team management options – he can keep wickets, bat in the middle order, or even open the batting.

But Rahul has been a wicketkeeper only in white-ball games so far, and giving him the big gloves would have been a big risk. As far as opening goes, he has struggled in overseas conditions when the ball moves off the straight, and Gill was considered the more solid player at this stage. And as Rahul doesn’t bowl, he was pipped by Jadeja who could give a genuine wicket-taking option if conditions are favourable.

That Rahul didn’t feature in either of the warm-up games before the first Test, it’s evident that he isn’t quite in the think tank’s scheme of things as far as Tests are concerned.

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