Meanwhile, young talent Yashasvi Jaiswal made a strong case for a coveted Test cap with an impressive batting display.
The practice game featured a mix of local club cricketers and the Indian team’s 16 players, aimed at simulating match-like conditions. Kohli faced a formidable challenge from seasoned left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat, who exploited Kohli’s vulnerability with deliveries outside the off-stump.Lacking distinct footwork, Kohli tentatively fished at the ball, only to be caught by a local fielder stationed at first slip. Unadkat’s unorthodox angle and well-executed line and length proved to be Kohli’s downfall, adding to a pattern of dismissals that has plagued him in Test cricket.
While Kohli’s struggles remain a topic of discussion, the spotlight shifted to Jaiswal, a promising young talent whose Test debut appears imminent. However, the position in the batting order for Jaiswal raises some debate. Traditionally an opener or a number three batsman, Jaiswal’s potential inclusion forced the seasoned Cheteshwar Pujara to relinquish his spot after three years of lacklustre performances and a conservative approach to Test match batting.
During the practice game, most of the top-order batsmen retired after facing 50 to 75 deliveries, but Jaiswal made a strong statement with a well-constructed 54 off 76 balls before taking a break. The talented youngster showcased his ability to handle the rigours of Test cricket and displayed the potential to cement a place in the Indian team.
With the first Test against the West Indies scheduled to begin on July 12, the Indian team management will have plenty to ponder as they analyse Kohli’s ongoing struggles and consider the inclusion of Jaiswal in the playing XI.
Yashasvi Jaiswal (IANS Photo)
Jaiswal as opener or No.3 batter?
The 20-year-old Jaiswal made a strong case for himself as an opener alongside skipper Rohit Sharma. Jaiswal showcased his class with elegant shots, including an on-drive off Mohammed Siraj and a rasping square cut off Jaydev Unadkat.
While Jaiswal faced 76 deliveries, Rohit retired after spending 67 balls at the crease. This strategic decision to promote Jaiswal ahead of regular opener Shubman Gill suggests that head coach Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit are considering grooming the young Mumbai batsman as an opener.
This move also hints at a long-term plan where Gill could potentially take on the role of a middle-order batsman, specifically at No. 3. Despite being known for his consistency, Gill has shown versatility by batting in the middle-order during his days as an India U-19 and India A player under the coaching of Dravid.
Gill’s ability to adapt to different positions was evident when he scored a magnificent double hundred (204) while batting at No. 5 (virtually No. 4) against the West Indies in a ‘A’ Test match in 2019. On that occasion, Shahbaz Nadeem was sent in as a night-watchman, allowing Gill to play a crucial innings in the middle-order.
With the current batting order taking shape, Virat Kohli is set to occupy the No. 4 spot, followed by Ajinkya Rahane at No. 5, Ravindra Jadeja at No. 6, and KS Bharath at No. 7. This arrangement appears to provide a sense of stability and balance to the Indian batting lineup.
Team weighs options for final bowling slot
On a predominantly dry track in Dominica, some key decisions need to be made regarding the final bowling slot. With Ravichandran Ashwin likely to be the second spinner and Shardul Thakur fulfilling the role of the third seamer and lower middle-order enforcer, the competition for the remaining spot is intense.
Mohammed Siraj’s impressive performances make him an automatic choice as the leader of the pace attack. However, the selection for the second new ball bowler poses a tough challenge for the team management. Three players are in contention for this crucial role.
Firstly, rookie Mukesh Kumar’s recent form and incisive seam bowling make a strong case for his inclusion. His ability to generate movement off the pitch and trouble batsmen with his accuracy and control could be valuable on the dry surface.
Secondly, Navdeep Saini offers an extra yard of pace, providing the team with an added dimension in the bowling lineup. Saini’s raw pace and ability to extract bounce from the surface can pose difficulties for the opposition batsmen.
Lastly, Jaydev Unadkat brings the left-armer’s angle and the much-needed variation to the attack. His ability to swing the ball into right-handed batsmen and his experience in domestic cricket make him a viable option.
The team management will have to carefully analyse the conditions, the opposition’s strengths, and the desired balance in the bowling attack before making the final decision.
(With inputs from PTI)