The fifth and final Test starts on Friday and Virat Kohli is likely to make a few changes to the team. While there is the case of India going in with their tried and tested players to make the scoreline 3-2 and not 3-1 or 4-1, the fact remains some members of the XI have failed more often than not over the course of the four Tests.
In such a scenario, the management will be tempted to try out a few members of the squad who have been on the bench.
The first name on top of every Indian cricket fan’s mind is teenage opener Prithvi Shaw. The 18-year-old has enjoyed a stellar season, guiding the India U-19 team to World Cup glory early in the year and scoring heavily in first-class matches. In 14 first-class matches of his debut season, Shaw has cracked seven centuries.
In his last four first-class matches for India ‘A’ – two each in England and India – Shaw hit two centuries and one fifty at the top of the order against sides like West Indies A, South Africa A and England Lions. Given the praise Shaw has received from many Indian greats, there is a good chance of him making his Test debut in the fifth game.
According to reports, KL Rahul is likely to be axed from the side after managing just 113 runs from eight innings. While Rahul has been exception in the slip region, taking 11 catches, the fact is he has looked extremely vulnerable against the moving ball. Since Shaw is a proper opener, he should make the cut with Shikhar Dhawan keeping his spot as he is a left-hander and has looked a bit more composed than Rahul.
The other change that is likely to happen is the return of left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja. The pitch for the fourth Test in Southampton had a lot of rough and assistance for spinners. England’s Moeen Ali snared nine wickets while India ace off-spinner Ravi Ashwin struggled to land successive balls on the same spot.
It is believed Ashwin carried the groin/hip injury he picked up in the third Test to the fourth match. His lack of effectiveness hurt the team the most and the Indian management are likely to bring in Jadeja who offers a lot more stability with line and length.
The next three batsmen in the nets for India: Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Ravindra Jadeja... pic.twitter.com/43lp8tQ9nc— Arjun Bhardwaj (@ArjunB_74) September 5, 2018
Hardik Pandya should retain his spot as he has the fourth-highest run tally among Indian batsmen and has snared 10 wickets.
The Indian team trained at The Oval on Wednesday and looking at the order of players who turned out to bat, both Shaw and Jadeja should be in the XI.
According to reports, Shaw and Jadeja were in the second batch of batsmen who took to the nets, raising the prospect of their selection.
England prevailed in the fourth Test at Southampton by 60 runs with India and the hosts neck and neck for much of the match. Shastri said the series scoreline could easily have been different had India grabbed their opportunities in the first Test in Birmingham (which India lost by 31 runs) or the fourth.
“The scoreline says 3-1 which means India have lost. What the scoreline doesn’t say that India could have been 3-1 or it could have been 2-2,” Shastri said on Wednesday.
“And the team knows it. They would have hurt and rightly so after the last game. But this is a team that will not throw in the towel. It will come out there and look to compete.”
India had a golden opportunity to win a series in South Africa earlier in the year but they squandered winning moments to lose 2-1. In England, India failed to drive home the advantage in the first and fourth Tests. Captain Virat Kohli said inability to cross the finish line is hurting the team and the coach concurred.
“We have run teams close overseas and we have competed. But now it’s not about competing. We have to win games,” Shastri said. “The endeavour is to understand where you made the mistakes and try to correct it. Fact is you had a chance.”
However, the former India opener said his team remains one of the most competitive team produced by his country in Test cricket and the series defeat does not change his belief.
“As far as crossing the line goes, you have to give credit to Moeen Ali there on the last day (in Southampton). He bowled magnificently. As hard as our guys tried, England were one-up on us there.
“If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas. I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that has had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series. So the promise is there, it is just about getting tougher mentally.”
Former India left-arm fast bowler RP Singh on Tuesday announced his retirement from cricket. The 32-year-old announced his decision on Twitter.
“13 years ago today, on 4th September 2005 was the first time I donned the Indian jersey. It was the stepping-stone to what would become the most cherished moments of my life,” Singh wrote a statement he posted on Twitter.
“Today as I hang my boots and call it a day, I wish to remember and give thanks to each and everyone who made this journey possible.
“For someone born in a small village, I never thought I would be able to say this – I have lived my dream. And for that I have nobody else to thank but you. My fans. For believing in me, for criticising me and for hailing me but mainly for just being there for me. Thank you,” Singh said.
Singh formed a formidable pace pairing with fellow left-armer Zaheer Khan in the late 2000s. He was one of the star performers for India in their victorious 2007 World T20 campaign. He also played a critical role in the 2007 Test series triumph in England and in India’s Test win over Australia in the acrimonious 2008 Perth Test.
In all, Singh picked up 40 Test wickets from 14 matches, 69 scalps from 58 ODIs and 15 wickets from 10 T20s.