This Sunday, India and Sri Lanka ended their 3-match T20 series, with the hosts sweeping the series 3-0. Virat Kohli will play his 100th Test match in Mohali’s IS Bindra Stadium in the 1st match of the IND vs SL Test series scheduled between 4th – 8th of March. The newly appointed Indian captain, Rohit Sharma, will lead the team for the first time in the longest format.
While discussing the squad that has been picked for this 2-match series, we discussed the left-outs, injury replacements, pending fitness tests, and debutants in detail.
In this article, we will try to find out the starting XI of the first Test match of the series. With players about to move on to the 2-months long IPL after this series, the hype relies more on the World Championship points that are to be fetched in both these Tests.
And now, it’s prediction time!
The Gill – Agarwal Debate
One of Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal to open with Rohit Sharma. Our choice is Gill, who looked contend enough to be the next big thing. Gill, diagnosed with a stress-related injury on his shin during the second Test match against New Zealand last December, missed out on the South Africa tour. Mayank Agarwal, his replacement in the South African Test squad, could only manage one 50+ plus score in six innings he opened along with KL Rahul in that series.
So, Gill should be the first choice over the newly appointed Punjab Kings captain.
Alternatives: Mayank Agarwal and Priyank Panchal
The New No.3
With Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane out of the side, the No.3 and 5 spots are open for the new entries to the Test squad. With Virat Kohli’s positioning at No.4, we might expect Shreyas Iyer to fill the spot of Pujara – the possessor of the position for almost a decade now. Pujara has been batting at No.3 for team India since the departure of Rahul Dravid. He has almost batted half of the number of balls that the legendary Dravid managed to face in his record-breaking Test career.
And, now with the position open again, Shreyas Iyer must be the first choice. He showed what he can actually do in the recently concluded T20 Series against Sri Lanka. Unbeaten in all three games, he scored match winning half-centuries in all three games and deservedly adjudged as the Player of the Series.
Alternatives: Mayank Agarwal (If the team wants to play both Gill and Mayank) and Hanuma Vihari
The 100th Test Cap
Another feather in the master batsman’s golden crown. With this game, Virat will become the 12th Indian player to attain the 100 Tests milestone.
The only Indian batsman to score 7 Test double centuries will once against walk into bat at the fall of 2 for the Men in Blue. This will also be the 125th time Virat will walk in at No.4 if the team decides to keep him at the same spot.
Alternatives: If the team decides to bank on Virat’s experience and put him at one-down, we might see Virat at three and Shreyas at 4.
The rise of Ravindrasinh Jadeja
In the last few years, the south paw’s batting has improved in leaps and bounds. If you want me to pick one player who has improved his game to the next level in the last few years in Indian cricket, it is Ravindra Jadeja, without any doubt. As a result, the team tried to push him up the order at No. 5s on a few occasions. With Rahane out of contention now, I believe it is the spot for Jadeja to conquer with his sword hand.
Alternatives: Rishabh Pant might walk ahead of Jaddu if the situation demands.
There goes the No.6
With Pant and Jadeja the easy favourites to feature in the Playing XI, the No.5 and 6 belong to these left-handed batters. The management could also try to keep one of these spots open for Hanuma Vihari, but with the qualities, the former two brings in and the Tests being at home, I doubt Vihari getting a game in one of these two Tests.
The quota of the off-spinner
With Ravichandran Ashwin’s spot in the side subject to his fitness, his replacement Jayant Yadav is the front-runner to fill his space. Jayant was back in the squad in the last home series against New Zealand, and he was impressive enough to get picked again.
The extra spinner
It is an Indian home Test match, and we should be surprised if India doesn’t pick their third spinner for the game. Kuldeep Yadav, who is back in the squad after a short gap, is the possible pick unless Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid duo want to try the new arms in the debutant Saurabh Kumar, who himself is a left-arm finger spinner. He was picked in place of Axar Patel and could be a valuable addition to the side.
The pace trio
India will pick three out of the four pacers in the squad for the first Test, considering the pace-friendly nature of the Mohali pitch. Also, thanks to the all-rounding spinners in the side, there is ample space for three pace bowlers to fit into the Indian Playing XI.
Alternatives: Mohammed Siraj might come in place of Umesh Yadav. But considering Umesh’s pace that could fit right for the Mohali pitch, he should be the front-runner.
Our Indian Playing XI for the First Test:
Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin/Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami