IND vs AUS 1st Test: Shubman Gill likely at No. 5; spinners R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ravindra Jadeja may get nod | Cricket News

It’s a series both India and Australia would have loved to go into with their best possible XIs. But that hasn’t been the case. Australia have been plagued by injuries to their champion pace duo of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. For India, the situation is a little different, with two top-order slots suddenly opening up because of injuries to Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant.
The two had become crucial cogs in the Indian wheel, but now that the duo is unavailable, Team India has been left with no other options but to bring in replacements. While it is virtually impossible to find a like-for-like replacement for the dynamic Pant — one of India’s biggest match-winners in recent times — India have a few options for Iyer’s spot.
Suryakumar Yadav has been in brilliant form in whiteball cricket and is an ideal middle-order replacement. But the indications are that India may choose to go with Shubman Gill at No. 5. On Tuesday, during India’s practice session, Gill, who has been superb as an opener in all formats of late, batted in the second lot after the top-four — Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli — had finished their first session.
When Rahul was asked whether Gill would bat at No. 5, the Indian vice-captain said: “We still haven’t decided on the final XI. It’s going to be a tough decision to make. There are guys who have performed exceedingly well and there are a few spots open so there are a few discussions going on and the players are being spoken to.”
While there is the obvious temptation of going in with a player like Surya at No. 5 because of his ability to play out-of-the-box shots, former national selector Devang Gandhi felt coach Rahul Dravid may just be inclined to go with Gill in the first Test.
“Shubman had a double hundred in West Indies playing for India ‘A’ in the middle-order. And in the last Test series that he played (against Bangladesh), he got a century,” Gandhi told TOI. The fact that Gill plays spin as good as anybody else in the Indian team should also work in his favour, at least in the first Test.
While India will go in with six batters, the three spinners who are likely to make the XI on a pitch which looks quite dry are R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, unless there is a last-minute injury.
Many feel chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav should get the nod ahead of Axar because of the variation that he brings to the table, but it’s to be noted that Jadeja is coming back into international cricket after a long break. He has played only one first-class match since his return from injury and the team management may be a little cautious. “We should not forget that Axar, who is a finger spinner similar to Jadeja, has been phenomenal on dry Indian tracks. He can keep an end tight. Add to that his batting ability, which can be crucial on a pitch like this,” Gandhi added.
The keeper’s slot too is up for grabs and Ishan Kishan has a similar dynamic approach to batting that Pant has. He was also seen keeping inside the batting nets on Tuesday while KS Bharat was practising his drills on another pitch outside the nets. Coach Dravid, not too long ago, had made a clear choice by promoting Bharat as India’s No. 2 keeper ahead of Wriddhiman Saha.
“Bharat has been with the team for a while and he should get his chance. He is a good wicketkeeper and Dravid believes that he can do the job with the bat too. It’s a difficult choice,” Gandhi said.

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