England vs India 2018: Did India make a mistake by picking an unchanged XI for the Fourth Test?
Team India will be eager to win the Fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and level the series with England. At one point it looked like the team was down and out, as they were down 2-0 to the hosts and there were fears that the series was headed for a whitewash.
The situation has dramatically changed since then, as India completely outplayed England in the Third Test at Trent Bridge and will now be hoping to repeat the heroics in Southampton. The Indian fans are even hoping that the team can make a spectacular comeback and clinch the series 3-2 by winning the next two tests.
Team India has even named an unchanged XI for the first time under Captain Kohli going into the Fourth Test. But the question remains, was it the right decision?
In contrast, England has made two changes to the team that was humbled in Nottingham. And while India did manage to outplay England in all departments in the Third Test, that does not mean that there is not any room for improvement in the team.
The opening has been a reason for concern throughout the series. Dhawan and Rahul have both failed to make meaningful contributions with the bat, and Murali Vijay's disastrous form has resulted in him being sent home in the middle of the series.
The Fourth Test was the perfect opportunity to give a chance to Prithvi Shaw, the 18-year-old prodigy who has drawn comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar. But the management decided to play it safe and gave the experienced pair of Dhawan and Rahul another opportunity.
Also, leading up to the match there were rumours that Ashwin was struggling with a groin injury. If he indeed is not fully fit, then this was a hasty selection made in desperation to win the Fourth Test.
Ravindra Jadeja, who is yet to feature in the series, could have provided very able back up to Ashwin. Also, the Ageas Bowl pitch is not known to help spinners. If Ashwin ends up aggravating his injury playing in the Fourth Test, then he could miss the last match at The Kia Oval in London. He could have been much more effective on that track than he is expected to be in Southampton.
But we must also remember the old saying 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. India did brilliantly in the Third Test and must have felt that making any change would disrupt the balance in the team. That must have been the primary for them to have kept the playing XI unchanged.
It's too early to judge this decision as a mistake. The only way to know for sure would be to wait until the end of the Fourth Test.