It’s important that when the Indian team takes the field for the final Test at Adelaide on Tuesday, it does so with the belief that it can end the series 3-1. That can happen only if the team shows an innovative approach which begins with team selection itself.
Rohit Sharma who ought to have been played as early as the second Test itself is now certain to make his Test debut. And Laxman seems to be the guy whom he will replace. At least that’s what conventional thinking would have us believe. But instead, if I were to choose the team, I would rest Gautam Gambhir.
Gambhir’s success in the limited overs’ version notwithstanding, his Test match temperament and credential has always been suspect. After having played at the highest level for so long you can’t have an opener constantly struggling to negotiate balls outside the off stump.
On the other hand, Laxman, his current form notwithstanding, is still capable of playing an effortless, match-winning knock on his day. Besides, if Laxman does not play this match, he may not get another opportunity to play for the country. And that would indeed be a sad way to end a career that was made out of making the Aussies look mediocre. Laxman should ideally bat at No. 3 in this match to give him one last opportunity to get his confidence back.
For, if he gets his confidence back, he might as well his appetite for big scores. In that case Dravid should open the innings with Sehwag. In any case given how early Dravid has had to come to the crease on this tour there’s very little difference between him opening or coming in at number 3.
To ensure a sound batting future for India in Test cricket, it’s important that Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli bat in tandem as much as possible. Both exude solid temperament even if the latter needs to work harder on his technique. Batting together will help each learn from the other, besides creating a sense of healthy rivalry, which at times is so important in a team. Therefore it’s important that Kohli and Sharma are given full support to cement their places at No.5 and No.6 in the batting line-up.
Lastly, the Indian side ought to play to their strengths. A four pace bowlers attack has seldom worked for the side. Not when the pace bowling department is battling its share of injuries and two of your key bowlers, Ishant and Zaheer are nowhere near their best. So play Ojha.
In any case, the Aussies haven’t played an orthodox Indian left-arm spinner since the days of Venkatpathy Raju. Let Ojha surprise them with his variety. Bring him on early in the first innings and give him a neat spell from one end while Yadav fires on all cylinders from the other end. The biggest problem for us in this series has been the predictable way in which the bowlers have been shuffled, often giving the impression that the Indians are merely going through the motions. Sehwag would do well to change that.
An Indian win at Adelaide holds crucial importance. Should Sehwag succeed, it might well give the Indian selectors an alternate option to captain the side in future. Should we lose, we go into the one day tri-series with our confidence decimated. It might then be difficult to prevent the tri-series from turning into another traumatic experience for the Indian fans.