HYDERABAD: Before the start of a Test match, one question that intrigues everyone is what possible playing XI could India come up with. With the game against Bangladesh starting on February 9 in Hyderabad, the same old query is doing the rounds again. The combination of the Indian team has been much discussed of late, perhaps due to the fact that new players have stepped up in the need of the hour, be it Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav or Parthiv Patel.
With Ajinkya Rahane fit again after missing the last two Tests against England, the team management has to decide about Nair, who made a triple century in the last Test. For those apprehensive about Rahane’s return, the message from the head coach was loud and clear.
“We all know what Ajinkya has done for this team. His performances have been phenomenal across all conditions. It is difficult overlooking such a player,” said Anil Kumble on Tuesday. His words practically puts and end to speculation over who bats at No 5. Off colour in three Tests against England before getting injured, Rahane averages 40.23 on home soil.
Kumble, however, praised Nair for coming up with a monumental effort in Chennai. “It’s fantastic for a young player to come and score a triple hundred. That’s a very rare achievement. It was great to see a youngster come and grab the opportunity he got.”
A lot has been said about the inclusion of an all-rounder in the squad. Hardik Pandya, who finds himself in the mix in the longer format again after being named in the contingent against England, might still be overlooked in the final XI, as Kumble feels he is yet to be tested in the longest format. “Hardik has done well in limited-over formats.
We look at him as a future prospect in Tests. Although he is yet to be tested here, he has the potential to do well. He gives us an option of someone who can bowl at over 140kmph and is a sturdy batsman lower down the order. Such players are an asset,” felt Kumble.
The opening combination seems to wear a settled look, following KL Rahul’s 199 in the last Test against England. This was a worry earlier in the season, following lack of runs from Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir. Tamil Nadu’s Abhinav Mukund is in the squad, although Kumble clarified he was picked as a reserve opener.
“Getting the best playing XI for a particular match is a difficult task. We had issues with the opening slot, but then Rahul and Vijay proved their worth in the England series. We look at Abhinav as a back-up for now. To be fair, he has done well in the domestic season, for which he has been rewarded,” Kumble said.