Before England turned the tables on the intimidating hosts in the Hyderabad Test, Jadeja and Rahul were two of India’s top performances in the first innings.
During the Hyderabad Test, Jadeja hurt his hamstring aiming for a rapid single, and Rahul reported having soreness in his right quadriceps.The home team’s problems are exacerbated by the duo’s absence; they were obviously taken aback by England’s “Bazball” tactic.
With his outstanding all-around skills, Jadeja renders himself practically irreplaceable, and since recovering from surgery in September, Rahul has also emerged as one of India’s most valuable hitters in both the ODI and Test formats.
Due to personal reasons, Virat Kohli is still out of commission. The management in Visakhapatnam, where the second Test starts on Friday, will be particularly missing him following the shocking loss in the first game of the series.
With Sarfaraz Khan, Sourabh Kumar, and Washington Sundar added to the group, selectors have ample choices for Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid to chose from.
Rajat Patidar, who was also among the 15 in Hyderabad, is an obvious choice. With Kuldeep Yadav replacing Jadeja as the third spinner behind R Ashwin and Axar Patel, he might replace Rahul in the middle order.
Another alternative for India is to play one pacer for four spin options, just like England did in the first game.
In that scenario, Kuldeep may replace Mohammed Siraj, and the squad might then include Sarfaraz Khan or Washington to strengthen the middle order.
Sourabh can be a dark horse in that race because he is a solid batsman with a couple of hundreds in first class cricket and bowls left-arm spin like Jadeja.
There have been two Test matches played at Visakhapatnam’s ACA-VDCA Stadium to date, and the pitch is typically batting friendly, at least in the first innings.
When India batted first at this venue back in 2019, they amassed 502 points in the opening innings against South Africa, with Mayank Agarwal recording a double hundred and Rohit putting up a quick 176 in his first-ever Test innings.
Spin legend Anil Kumble feels wrist spinner Kuldeep’s presence in the eleven will be helpful.
“If India feel that they need only one fast bowler then having Kuldeep will certainly help. He will have variations but England will come and do the same things they did in Hyderabad,” Kumble told the host broadcaster.
“The wicket could be a turning one and we are expecting the pace to be quicker than this. This was slow but it was a good wicket if you applied yourself. India certainly need to buckle up with their approach to playing against spin.
“I also felt that they were certainly rattled by the way England approached their batting and with that, they have to come up with plans, some unconventional ones. They never tried any variations so that’s something I am sure they will be looking to do,” he said referring to the spin trio being put under pressure with England’s relentless sweeping tactic.
Washington, a left-handed batsman who bowls off-spin with his right hand, also has a good case for selection after demonstrating a lot of promise during his four Test career.
He played in three games in the previous home series against England in 2021 after making his debut in the historic Test victory at the Gabba.
Over the course of that series, Washington achieved an 85 not out and 96 not out in five innings and took two wickets in a match that was dominated by Ashwin and Axar, the front-line spinners.
Former selector Sarandeep Singh, during whose tenure Washington made his debut Down Under, said the all-rounder is a utility player but he would not want to tinker too much with the playing eleven.
“It is pretty simple for me. Rajat Patidar comes in for Rahul and Kuldeep comes in for Jadeja. We don’t need to copy England and play four spinners. Playing with two pacers and three spinners has been our strength at home. We need to stick to it,” said the former India spinner.
However, he reckons it would be better for the team’s cause if Rohit drops himself to number 3 and an under-fire Shubman Gill opens the innings alongside Yashasvi Jaiswal.
Having replaced the experienced Cheteshwar Pujara in the top-order, Gill, who had previously stated his desire to play at three, has not been able to reproduce his white ball form in the conventional format.
“Gill is not a number three player. He should open. Rohit is one of the best players of spin and can drop down to accommodate Gill at the top,” Sarandeep added.
Former India opener Wasim Jaffer also expressed similar views.
“Gill and Jaiswal should open and Rohit should bat at no.3 in 2nd test in my opinion. Waiting to bat for his turn isn’t helping Shubman, it’s better he opens the inn. Rohit plays spin really well, so batting at no.3 should not worry him too much,” Jaffer posted on X.
(With PTI inputs)