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Thirteen India players get first preference in Antigua practice session

Mock sledging and one-on-one sessions with coach Kumble - Team India's training session at the venue of the 1st Test

Four players only got a chance to bat and bowl in the later half of the India practice session

On proof of what was seen at Team India’s practice sessions in Antigua on Monday, it seems that selection of the playing XI for the 1st Test in a couple of days has been narrowed down to thirteen names. Rohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a secondary role to play as the team embark on a long period of Tests starting from Thursday.

At the beginning of the session, the batsmen paired up in twos in the three nets as Ishant Sharma, Stuart Binny, Mohammad Shami, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, and later Ravindra Jadeja bowled for the first hour. Binny enjoyed good rythm, troubling Shikhar Dhawan outside his off stump. Shami and Sharma bowled fuller lengths than they had done in the practice matches.

Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan paired up, Cheteshwar Pujara and KL Rahul took the net beside theirs, and Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane teamed up at the last net. Rohit Sharma, despite having scored a half century in his only innings in the two warm up matches in the Caribbean, came out to bat only in the later part of the day.

Coach Anil Kumble spent a lot of time with Amit Mishra at an empty net. In the second half of the session, Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha and the bowlers got a chance to bat, as the three other pacers came on to bowl. Pujara and Vijay got a chance to bowl their part-time spin as well, and were the most enthusiastic of all the bowlers.

There was a lot of mock sledging going on as well in the later half. Ashwin spoke out to Vijay in Tamil that he would allow Dhawan to play the sweep shot for a while and then would bowl him round the legs. Pujara mock-appealed for everything while bowling to Rohit Sharma, and somebody was heard shouting out ‘Bowled Yasir!’ as Rohit decided to leave a teasing leg break outside off stump from Pujara.

Vijay challenged Jadeja to blast out every ball that he bowled, and broke out into dance whenever Jadeja failed. 

If it is assumed that the team has indeed been narrowed down to thirteen, the questions that can be posed are – Will India go into the 1st Test with three spinners, with Ishant and Shami as the two seamers? Or could Jadeja or Mishra be left aside for a third seam bowling option in Binny? Could KL Rahul be played as the wicketkeeper, and play in the XI alongside Vijay and Dhawan? 

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