Former India batter Sanjay Manjrekar believes that Suryakumar Yadav will play at No. 5 in the first Border-Gavaskar Test against Australia. A back injury to Shreyas Iyer has ruled him out of contention for the series opener, meaning a potential red-ball debut for Suryakumar could be in store.
Shubman Gill and KL Rahul, although the latter being an unlikely candidate for the middle order in Tests, are some of the other options Team India have at their disposal.
Ishan Kishan's presence as a left-handed batter is also tempting, but Suryakumar's imperious first-class record is too good for the sidelines.
Opining that Suryakumar's sweep shot could come in handy to unsettle the Australian spinners, Manjrekar said during an interaction with ESPN Cricinfo:
"I think Surya will play the first Test with Bharat at No.6. Surya has played 79 first-class games, this is a unique career that we are witnessing. He has been around for a long time."
"He will play because there are not many other options in the squad. Even in 50-over cricket, if he decides not to hit the ball in the air for a while, he will still score at a strike rate of 120. He is not just a six-hitter. He has a great sweep shot, which is just a great shot to have to put the opposition spinner under pressure."
Team India have focused on playing the sweep and the reverse sweep during practice for the first Test. While visiting batters have employed the use of these shots on a consistent basis to negate the spin threat, it is not a common tactic used by the majority of Indian batters.
Noting that being aggressive on Indian rank turners would be a very risky approach, perhaps even 'hazardous', Manjrekar said:
Maybe one guy can come down the order and attack the spinners as Rishabh Pant has done for India. But, on a team basis, to come in with that ultra-aggressive tactic will be hazardous, because you are playing really outside your natural approach."
The thing is to go in there, and find out for yourself, what needs to be done to survive. I think that is the way to go about it instead of being influenced by other teams."
England have found success with their aggressive approach, even in overseas conditions. They defeated Pakistan by a 3-0 margin, where they made the most of the flat, lifeless tracks to embrace their brute style of play.
However, a similar tactic on Indian pitches could prove to be tricky and with Australia not entirely familiar with it, the move would not pay off well.
"If he gets runs in this Test series, then you can definitely say that Kohli is back to his supreme best" - Sanjay Manjrekar
While Virat Kohli has largely turned around his poor run of form after a good string of scores since the 2022 Asia Cup, he still finds himself astray in Test cricket.
His last Test hundred came during the day-night Test against Bangladesh in 2019, and he has struggled even in home conditions against basic spin bowling.
Attributing Kohli's shaky record against spin of late to poor judgment in terms of length, Manjrekar said:
"Kohli has been a wonderful player of spin, but of late, a simple observation that I have made is judgment of length, especially against spinners. If he gets runs in this Test series, then you can definitely say that Kohli is back to his supreme best."
The former India skipper was dismissed by spinners Taijul Islam, Shakib Al Hasan, and Mehidy Hasan over the course of the Bangladesh tour in December 2022.
Will Kohli find his touch in red-ball cricket during the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy? Let us know what you think.
Also Read: "To have a tactic against Ashwin, having a clone is a good preparation" - Sanjay Manjrekar on Australia's groundwork to face the off-spinner
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