Over the past few years, as far as overseas Test series are concerned, one of the biggest talking points around the Indian team has been the selection of the playing XI.
Coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli have varied between the “horses for courses” and “current form” strategies. While their decisions in this regard have paid off on many occasions – India are the No 1 side in Test cricket after all – there have also been instances when fans have been left wondering about the rationale behind picking the XI.
On Friday, on the eve of the second Test against New Zealand, Shastri offered some insight on how he and the rest of the team management decide on the combination for each match.
In the first Test, which India went on to lose by ten wickets, Ravichandran Ashwin was preferred over Ravindra Jadeja as the sole spinner in the team. Talking about how one spinner is chosen ahead of the other, Shastri said there are several factors that come into play.
“You will first see how much of a role a spinner has – how many overs do you think he is going to bowl in the game,” said Shastri. “Is there going to be something for him on day four and five? Will the second innings be that important? Do you need him more in the first innings of a game? Is his batting going to count, is his fielding going to count, is his overall fitness going to count? So those are areas you look into. Not just for spinners. When you have four fast bowlers, you have to pick three and leave one out. The same thing happens.”
Another major talking point in the first Test, as far as team selection is concerned, was Rishabh Pant being preferred ahead of Wriddhiman Saha. Shastri said that the conditions – home versus overseas – were the deciding factor when it came to wicketkeepers.
“We went for Saha in India because there would be a lot of spin,” said the coach. “And on turning tracks where the bounce can be uneven, you need an experienced ‘keeper. And Saha, to be honest, is one of the best around. But when you come here, there isn’t much spin bowling. Emphasis is on fast bowling and then the batting becomes a key factor plus the fact that he [Pant] is a left-hander and an aggressive batsman lover down the order…that tips the scales in his favour.”