The 4-0 drubbing in the one-dayers notwithstanding, India must look to begin the Test series on a fresh note at Auckland. It is easier said than done, but it is also the only way India can look forward to something positive. Apart from the one match where they somehow managed to pull off a tie, nothing has gone right for them on the tour so far, extending their winless streak which began in South Africa. If India hope to put up a competitive show at Auckland, they need to be prepared mentally and technically. Then again, whether they have the wherewithal to deal with the conditions will be another matter.
Considering that India struggled due to the lack of balance in the one- dayers, their team composition in the Tests would become even more significant. Shikhar Dhawan’s lack of form would be a massive cause of concern, but the team cannot replace him as yet. Remember, while he has featured in a few one-dayers now, he has only been part of a handful of Tests, and it would be unfair to drop him so soon at least in the longer version of the game. Murali Vijay played one impressive knock of note in South Africa to retain his place. But, he will continue to be on test.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are automatic choices for the number three and four positions. The number five position is again a cause of worry. While Rohit Sharma made a sensational Test debut back home, he hasn’t been anywhere near as good away. But, like Dhawan, he needs more chances to prove himself. Ajinkya Rahane may have struggled in the one-dayers, but he was among India’s most consistent batsmen on the Test tour of South Africa. In accordance with the same, he deserves to keep the number six spot.
Skipper MS Dhoni will follow at number seven, but the number eight position, just like in one-dayers, would remain a puzzle for the Indians. Should they go in with Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin or continue with the latter? Ashwin hasn’t quite proved his credentials away from home, but he has provided a lot of solidity to the team with his consistent batting reminiscent of a top order batsman. In contrast, Jadeja has been more effective with the ball, but hasn’t been anywhere as consistent with the bat. He has looked a far cry from the man who has amassed three triple hundreds in domestic cricket. India need to take a call on who will be more beneficial for the team under the conditions.
In the pace bowling department, one change is warranted. The rookie Ishwar Pandey must get his deserved Test debut ahead of Ishant Sharma. Pandey impressed in the practice game as well, which should enhances his chances of making it to the XI. Zaheer Khan will spearhead the attack for sure. Finally, on present form and pace, Mohammed Shami must complete the playing line-up ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.
--By A Cricket Analyst