Pink-ball scars, an untested pitch, combination worries: both sides have plenty to deal with in a game that will shape the path to the WTC final
A week-long break is a luxury in this year’s international cricket calendar following the lull of 2020. As India and England return to action in the third Test on Wednesday, they will have to overcome the fear of the unknown on multiple counts at the plush Sardar Patel Stadium.
First and foremost, it will be the first international match after the stadium was refurbished to accommodate more spectators than any other cricket venue in the world.
No doubt, Motera hosted the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy knockouts last month, but the fact that the ultramodern venue is yet to stage a First Class match means that how the surface plays remains anybody’s guess.
From the lush-green look it wore four days ago, the strip has been converted into one that’s eerily similar to the pitch at Chepauk for the second Test. It will be interesting to see how the teams approach the game in terms of their combination.
Add to that the fact that the third game of the four-Test rubber will be played with the pink ball and it changes the scenario even more. Both India and England had a forgettable outing in their last pink-ball outings. No doubt the conditions at Motera will be drastically different from Adelaide (where India was bowled out for 36 last year) and Auckland (when England was bundled out for 58 in 2018), but it will be interesting to see whether either side carries any baggage of the collapses.
Despite the uncertainty prevailing with regard to these aspects, considering the match could end up being a huge factor in determining New Zealand’s opponent for the World Test Championship, both teams will have to first get their combination right.
On that count, both the units have plenty to ponder. With Jasprit Bumrah set to wear India’s whites at his home-ground for the first time and Ishant Sharma on the verge of joining the elite 100-Test club, Mohammed Siraj in all likelihood will make way.
India will have to decide on whether to draft in Umesh Yadav — with his stupendous record on home soil — to bolster its pace attack keeping in mind the pink ball is likely to aid pacers. If India opts to field three quicks, Umesh, having recovered from the calf strain he suffered in Australia, will come in for Kuldeep Yadav, who was under-bowled in the second Test.
England, too, has to deal with multiple headaches to get a winning ensemble out on the park. Despite its pre-conceived rotation policy, it will be interesting to see if the management fields the pace trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer for the first time in the series.
In batting, with Zak Crawley having recovered from a freak injury suffered ahead of the series-opener and Jonny Bairstow being available for selection, the visiting side will hope the duo will take some load off captain Joe Root and all-rounder Ben Stokes.
The teams (from): India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-capt.), K.L. Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R. Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Umesh Yadav.
England: Joe Root (Capt.), Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Dan Lawrence, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (wk) Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, and Mark Wood.
On-field umpires: Nitin Menon and Anil Chaudhary; Third umpire: Shamshuddin; Fourth umpire: N. Ananthapadmanabhan; Match referee: Javagal Srinath.
Hours of play: 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., 5.10 to 7.10 p.m., 7.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. (play can be extended till 10 p.m.).