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Sunil Gavaskar criticises Kohli for team selection in third Test

Gavaskar believes things could have panned out differently in Ranchi for the Indian team.

Sunil Gavaskar and Virat Kohli
Sunil Gavaskar had handed Virat kohli the Test Championship mace

What’s the story?

India and Australia were embroiled in a hard-fought, old-fashioned Test match of the classical mold during the third Test in Ranchi. It was a throwback to a bygone era where the batsmen had to apply themselves to score runs, while the bowlers had to persist with the right lines to pick up wickets.

At the end of it all, the two teams could not be separated as time simply ran out to establish an outright winner. Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, however, believes India missed a trick by not playing a 5th bowler in those conditions.

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Speaking about Virat Kohli’s team combination, he said, "India's batting has benefited by the fact that you have somebody like Ashwin, somebody like a Wriddhiman Saha at No 6, 7 and 8. And if Jadeja can come score runs as he has done in this series then I think it really makes sense to go back to five bowlers and six batsmen theory. India clearly missed a fifth bowler on Monday. I am not saying a fifth bowler would have ripped through the opposition but he would have given just that little bit of break to our hard working fast bowlers. Both Umesh (Yadav) and Ishant (Sharma) bowled their hearts out."

The context 

Much was made of the combination that the Indian cricket team would adopt prior to the start of its long home season. Captain Virat Kohli had mentioned that he preferred a 6 batsmen-5 bowler combination, but in the last two matches against Australia, he had gone it with 7 batsmen.

The details 

After the fiasco of the first Test in Pune, when the visitors destroyed India by 333 runs, Kohli rejigged the team by dropping Jayant Yadav and picking Karun Nair in his place. In the successful Test series against England, and contests against New Zealand and West Indies in the past, India went in with 5 bowlers and benefitted massively. 

The likes of Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant Yadav contributed massively with the bat and the team didn’t feel the absence of another recognized batsman. In the recently concluded Test in Ranchi, both Saha and Jadeja contributed with the bat, and the addition of either Jayant Yadav or Bhuvneshwar Kumar would have given the team another option with the ball.

Given Karun Nair’s struggles after his historic 303, and Kohli’s penchant for tinkering with the team, there is a high probability that we will see a different playing XI when the Indian cricket team takes to the field in Dharamshala.

What’s next?

Australia have matched India at ever step of the way in the series and dispelled all the predictions that the hosts would have a comfortable win against the team from ‘down under’. The focus shifts to Dharamshala, that will host its first ever Test when the teams take to the field on the 25th later this month.

Author’s take 

Gavaskar has been slightly harsh with his choice of words, but he did make a valid point. The 5th bowler adds another dimension to the Indian setup. For the series-deciding tie, there is a high chance that Karun Nair will be dropped to the bench for either Jayant Yadav, Bhuvi or Mohammed Shami.

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