While the primary spin bowling slots are held by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the selection between Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav for the third spinner role appears to be a tough call.
Hinting at Axar potentially securing the spot, Rohit suggested that the team management might have leaned towards him for the final selection. The decision underscores the depth and competition within the Indian squad, especially in the spin department, as they prepare to take on England in the upcoming Test match starting on Thursday.
“If the wicket has bounce or if it doesn’t have bounce, he (Kuldeep) still is a factor in those types of conditions because he’s got superb variations. Obviously, he is a very mature bowler now from what he was a few years back,” Rohit said in the pre-match press conference in Hyderabad.
“He’s not played a lot of Test cricket in India because of Ashwin and Jadeja. We’ve seen it in the past as well. With our middle-order (batting), in the past, a lot of us (batters) got an opportunity pretty late.
“But that’s the reality of it, you can’t hide away from it. But yes, he’s a very tempting option,” he added.
While Rohit didn’t explicitly disclose the final playing XI for the upcoming match, he dropped a strong hint that Axar might be included in the team. Rohit emphasised the versatility of the left-arm spinner, suggesting that Axar’s abilities as an all-rounder could be a valuable asset for the team in the opening Test against England.
Rohit dispelled any misconceptions about Axar sharing similar skills with Jadeja, emphasizing that Axar brings his own unique qualities to the table. This statement indicates that the team management values the distinct attributes Axar possesses, debunking any assumptions that he might be overshadowed by the presence of Jadeja in the squad.
“Axar, you know, with his all-round ability, gives us that batting depth. The consistency that he’s shown, playing in these conditions in Test cricket, also is an important factor for us.
“But it was a headache to decide who it is going to be for us. But I am not going to say who it is,” said Rohit.
The 36-year-old expressed hope that premier spinner Ashwin would once again deliver a strong performance in conditions familiar to him. Ashwin, known for his proficiency in various conditions, is expected to play a crucial role in the upcoming Test match.
“Ashwin, obviously, we know his class, we know his quality. Every time he plays the game for us, he tends to impress all of us by a notch (higher). We do appreciate that.
“Every time he’s gotten an opportunity, he’s made sure to put the team ahead. He’s shown it for a number of years now. So, yeah, I hope this series is no different for him, and he comes out and does what he does the best,” said Rohit.
Ashwin, the 37-year-old off-spinner, stands on the verge of achieving two significant milestones in his illustrious career. He is just 10 wickets away from reaching the 500-wicket mark in Test cricket. Additionally, if he plays all five Tests in the series against England, he will complete 100 career Test matches.
While acknowledging these impending milestones for Ashwin, Indian skipper emphasised that the team’s focus has been on their own strategies rather than dwelling on the approach of the opposition.
England are expected to bring their dynamic ‘Bazball’ style of cricket to the series, but Rohit’s statement suggests that the Indian team is concentrating on their own game plan and execution.
The upcoming Test series promises to be an exciting challenge for both teams, with individual achievements adding to the intrigue.
“You need to be very clear in your mind, you need to have a game plan when you’re playing in these conditions, and then back that plan — whether it’s to defend tightly or whether it is to play some shots — sweep, reverse sweep, whatever that is,” he said.
“Don’t be in two minds as to what you want to do as that is where you can get yourself into trouble. Then you need to understand your own strengths because all of us have grown up playing in these types of conditions,” he added.
Rohit said the team that handles pressure better and consistently would do well in the series.
“It’s just about handling that pressure of playing a Test match, handling that pressure of quality spells from the opposition. So, that is the challenge that you need to handle.
“You stick to your own strengths, stick to your plan, and then go out and do that fearlessly,” he asserted.
(With PTI inputs)