Gautam Gambhir has expressed surprise and disappointment over India omitting Kuldeep Yadav from the first Test in Chennai and claimed that the hosts should have picked the wrist-spinner due to the variety he brings. Gambhir also expressed apprehension over the selection of Ishant Sharma.
After missing each of the four Tests in Australia despite India suffering a plethora of injuries, Kuldeep Yadav was touted to start in the first Test in Chennai, and the same was hinted by skipper Virat Kohli a day ahead of the game. However, a late injury to Axar Patel threw spanner in the works of the hosts, who eventually drafted Shahbaz Nadeem into the XI, alongside Washington Sundar, opting to bench Kuldeep. The decision to omit Kuldeep was not received well by the fans, most of whom believed it was flabbergasting on the management’s part to bench the youngster despite playing three spinners.
Gautam Gambhir, speaking on ESPN Cricinfo, echoed the overarching sentiment and expressed disappointment over the omission of the wrist-spinner, who he feels could have been an X-factor on a flat wicket.
“A little unfortunate for Kuldeep, to be honest. I thought India should have picked Kuldeep against England. A left-arm wrist-spinner is a very rare commodity. He’s been with the side and he hasn’t played any cricket. So Kuldeep would have been a great asset,” Gambhir said on ESPN Cricinfo’s pre-match show.
“You wanna use him first up in the series as well. You don’t want to be waiting to pick Kuldeep in the second or the third Test match because we have seen a lot of times how wrist-spinners can turn the game around. I’m a bit surprised as well that they are playing with two off-spinners. Probably because they wanted a bit of depth in the batting at No.7 and No.8.”
Kuldeep’s omission was the biggest talking point, but the morning of Day 1 also saw the return of Ishant Sharma, who missed the entirety of the Australia tour due to injury. Ishant prepped for the series by proving his fitness in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where he represented Delhi. Gambhir revealed that he was surprised by India snubbing the in-form Mohammed Siraj and questioned whether Ishant had the fitness levels to feature across five days in a two-man seam attack.
"Another big surprise was Ishant Sharma. He hasn’t played a lot of red-ball cricket lately and Siraj has been in fabulous form. Playing T20 cricket after injury and then playing a Test match is a completely different ball-game. Especially when you have to bowl 17-18 overs a day and when you only have two seamers.”