India will be going into the Fourth Test with a lot of self-belief. They put on a very impressive performance in the Third Test, where they managed to outplay the hosts in all departments and managed to bring the series to a respectable 2-1 after losing the first two games.
Now the Indian team will be eager to carry on with their new found momentum and level the series, when the two teams take to the field at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the all-important Fourth Test. Under perfect circumstances, the management would not be eager to tweak with the team that served them so well in Nottingham but they are now facing a selection dilemma.
Earlier this week, reports broke out that off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin, was struggling with a groin injury and will be a major doubt for the Fourth Test. While Ashwin is easily India's best spinner in the longest format of the game, the team management will be expected to give him a rest if he is not fully fit.
The Fifth Test is scheduled to be played at The Oval, which is known to be a spinner friendly track and Ashwin is effective to be very effective on those conditions. Thus it would not be worth the risk of playing him in the Fourth Test and further aggravating his injury.
But Team India now faces the mighty task of replacing their deadliest spinner in a Test that they cannot afford to lose. Ashwin will surely be a huge miss but that does not mean that the team cannot win without him.
One option for them would be to drop the idea of playing a spinner altogether and play an extra pacer instead, considering the pacer friendly wicket in Southampton. If they do indeed follow this plan then Umesh Yadav will be expected to fill in for Ashwin. Throughout the season he showed the ability to pick up wickets regularly and did pretty well in the First Test before being eventually dropped.
But this would mean that India will be playing without a recognized spinner in the team. As a result, the balance of the team could be ruined.
What Team India should do instead is go with Ravindra Jadeja. Admittedly, he has not been in great form in the past year, but that does not mean that he cannot be an asset to the team when called upon.
In the past, he has shown his ability with both bat and ball. He was the No. 1 ranked Test all-rounder just a year ago and still is the No. 3 ranked bowler in the longest format of the game, four positions higher than Ashwin.
The fact that he has not gotten a chance throughout the series might even be called unfair by some. But now with Ashwin possibly out of the Fourth Test with injury, the team must put their faith in the all-rounder.
This is obviously a change that they are being forced into making, but that does not mean that it weakens the team. Ashwin will be a loss for Team India, but there are very few replacements better than Jadeja at the moment.Published 29 Aug 2018, 18:44 IST