Former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin has stated that India should go with two spinners and five main bowlers overall in the opening Test against Australia, should the wicket be dry. He also added that Hardik Pandya should have stayed back and played in the Test series as a batsman.
With the Test series between India and Australia starting from Thursday, there is a lot of curiosity around India's playing XI. There is no certainty over India's team yet as it is not known whether India will go with four fast bowlers or three pacers and a spinner. In all likelihood grass is expected to be left on the pitch for the day-night Test where the pink ball is supposed to move a lot in twilight, and thus spinners' effectiveness remain a question.
But contrary to popular opinion, former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin has batted for inclusion of two spinners, which is generally the strategy for the Sydney Test between the two nations. He reckons that if the pitch is dry, the spinners won't be easy to pick under lights with the pink ball. He also feels that India should play five main bowlers.
"People find it difficult to play spin with the pink ball. If the wicket is dry, the ball will turn, definitely you go with two spinners. But I doubt he (Kohli) will go in with two spinners," Azharuddin told the media in an interaction, reported TOI.
"To win a Test match, you need five main bowlers. I have always felt that. As a captain, you always needed your five best bowlers during the game. At the end of the day, the bowlers are going to win the game for you. I found it very difficult at times? when playing in home conditions when wickets were turning, one bowler would always get under-bowled. But conditions are not going to be like that in Australia. I think if the wicket is good I honestly feel that they should go in with two spinners," Azhar said and added "if your top five batsmen can't score runs then you can't expect the number six to come good".
Azharuddin also suggested that he would opt for Ashwin or Kuldeep ahead of Jadeja, given the left-armer doesn't turn the ball a great deal. Hardik Pandya had starred for India in the limited-overs series and Azhar asserted that the all-rounder should have stayed back for the Tests for the value he brings to the side.
"Don't know how fit Jadeja is. On wickets with not much help, Jaddu may not be able to turn the ball. He is a good batsman, outstanding all-rounder but if I was there, I'd play a leggie and an offie.
"I think we have a very good side and batting order. I wish Pandya had stayed back and played. He is a good all-rounder. As a batsman in Test matches.. you need players to go out and play that type (Pandya's) of game. You see many of the matches that Pandya has played, he has scored runs. Hopefully the batting order stays good, they have to make a big score. If India has to win the game, they have to make a big score and bat first," he said.
One of India's biggest weaknesses during the limited-overs series was poor fielding standards as fielders not only spilled easy chances but they were absolutely poor in ground fielding too. Azharuddin feels that fielding can be a problem area for the tourists.
"Our fielding has been a problem. We have dropped a few chances. Our ground fielding has also not been upto the mark. Definitely, slip fielding is going to be a problem for India."
Virat Kohli will only feature for India in first Test and will then return back home and miss the whole series. It is a major setback for India, feels Azhar.
"It will be a setback. Kohli is the main player, I mean he is an aggressive player like Steve Smith and always scores quickly... Then three Test matches without him, it is not going to be easy but we have to get used to it.
"Whoever is coming in his place has a great responsibility. I think Rohit should play. No reason why he shouldn't play. Very unfortunate that he wasn't able to play ODIs and T20Is because we really don't know about his injury. If he is there he should play. He has done well."
India will take on Australia in the first Test in Adelaide from December 17.