NOTTINGHAM: A few dark clouds, the occasional rain and the sudden chill of early autumn greeted the Indian team as they got down to practice at Trent Bridge on Thursday. The two-and-a-half day humiliation at Lord’s is still fresh in their memories and the Indian team management knows that a few drastic measures are the need of the hour to stay competitive in the five-Test series.
The first of those is the likely inclusion of young Delhi wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant. The second is the desperation of Virat Kohli to take the field, even though it’s quite evident that he is not 100% fit. Shikhar Dhawan, too, seems to be in line for a comeback while Jasprit Bumrah, who has got fit from a finger injury, is also likely to find a place in the playing XI.
Dinesh Karthik’s batting form has been woeful for the series and the practice session on Thursday suggested that Pant would make his debut on Saturday. “You will only know about Pant at 11am on Saturday,” coach Ravi Shastri said, trying to make it sound as vague as possible.
But India’s first practice at Trent Bridge was a lot about Pant acclimatizing to the conditions, both as a keeper and a batsman, while Dinesh Karthik hardly got a go. Pant kept with the slip cordon and batted with the top-order as the senior Chennai man almost stayed invisible.
Kohli, on the other hand, took a few medicines before practice started and he wasn’t doing the warm-up exercises with the team. But after having a long chat with the bowlers, the captain decided to do a bit of knocking in the nets, even though he couldn’t hide the discomfort.
Kohli would probably be taking a risk if he plays here, but such is the situation that he doesn’t have much of an option. “He is getting better and improving by the day,” was all Shastri had to offer about Kohli’s fitness.
The England management, though, is keeping a close eye on the Indian captain’s fitness. “Sometimes players do better when they are playing with an injury and Kohli is a fine player. I have just seen him take some slip catches without any problems, so I’m sure he’ll be playing,” England coach Trevor Bayliss said, indicating that England will chalk out their strategies with Kohli in mind.
If Kohli plays, one among KL Rahul and M Vijay is likely to sit out to make way for Dhawan. The Delhi opener was dropped after the first Test but after Vijay came up with a pair at Lord’s, he could face the axe for thre third Test.
With a bit of rain in the air, the final change that India are likely to make is the inclusion of Bumrah in place of Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep didn’t have much to do in the last Test at Lord’s, and even though the 22 yards at Trent Bridge is unlikely to assist pacers as it did at Lord’s, the Indian team management will probably stick to the four-pacer (including Hardik Pandya) theory in this crucial game.