Team India will have a few selection dilemmas to address ahead of the first Test against New Zealand at Basin Reserve.
Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill
The injury to Rohit Sharma means India will have a new opening pair. While Mayank Agarwal is a certainty, a call needs to be taken between Shaw and Gill for the second opener’s slot. It looks like Shaw is likely to pip his 2018 U-19 World Cup mate, after Gill had two low scores in the practice match in Hamilton. Captain Virat Kohli also hinted at including Shaw in the XI. “Prithvi is a talented player and he has his own game and we want him to follow his instincts and play the way he does. These guys have no baggage.” In that case, Shaw will be making his return to Team India after his debut series against West Indies in October 2018.
R Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja
Ashwin has a better record than Jadeja. But it’s batting and fielding where the latter has stolen a march in recent times. So much so that whenever India plays just one spinner, Jadeja gets preference over Ashwin. It may be the a similar case at Basin Reserve.
Wriddhiman Saha or Rishabh Pant
On one hand there is Saha, a genuine wicketkeeper with the ability to play courageous knocks under tough conditions lower down the order. On the other, there’s Rishabh Pant, who has been seen mostly ferrying drinks. He didn’t get any opportunity on the limited-overs leg of this tour, since KL Rahul was performing a dual role. However, Pant looked on song in the practice match, where he notched up a half-century. But for the series opener, the team management is likely to adopt a conservative approach and bank on Saha’s experience.
Ishant looked out of the reckoning for this tour after twisting his ankle in a Ranji Trophy match in December. The Delhi pacer, however, cleared the fitness test just in time to board the flight to New Zealand. As things stand, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will be the first-choice seamers, with a tussle for the third seamer between Ishant and Yadav. Going by current form, it would be a tad unfair to leave Yadav out of the playing XI, as he was in red hot form in the Bangladesh series accounting for 12 scalps in two Tests. Ishant, though, with his wealth of experience, could just get the nod. Kohli seemed to suggest so in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “Ishant looked pretty normal and pretty similar to what he was bowling before the ankle injury. He is hitting good areas again and he has played (Test cricket) in New Zealand couple of times, so his experience will be useful to us. It was really good to see him bowling with pace and in good areas.”
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