Rohit Sharma, the swashbuckling Indian captain, candidly admitted to the team's selection woes on the eve of the crucial opening Test against England in Hyderabad. With the absence of senior batsman Virat Kohli due to personal reasons and KL Rahul ruled out of wicketkeeping duties by head coach Rahul Dravid, Sharma finds himself grappling with a few crucial calls.
Third spinner conundrum: Axar Patel's batting prowess vs Kuldeep Yadav's mystery spin
One of the major headaches for the Indian skipper is the choice of the third spinner to complement the established duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin. Both Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav bring unique skillsets to the table, making the decision a tough one.
Praising Axar's all-round abilities, Sharma highlighted his batting depth and consistent performances. "Axar with his all-round ability, gives us the batting depth and the consistency he has shown," remarked the captain.
However, Kuldeep's X-factor with his variations and his maturity as a bowler also impressed Sharma. "Kuldeep gives you a certain X factor with his bowling especially if the wicket gives bounce or not he still becomes a factor because he has got superb variations and he is a very mature bowler now," he said.
Acknowledging the limited opportunities Kuldeep has received in India due to the presence of Ashwin and Jadeja, Sharma admitted the tough competition within the spin department. "He has not played much cricket in India because of Ashwin and Jadeja and that’s what has even happened in the past also," he said.
Who dons the gloves? Bharat or Jurel to step up?
Another dilemma for the Indian team management is the wicketkeeper's slot with both KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel vying for the position. While KL Rahul, who kept wickets in South Africa, could have been considered, Dravid ruled him out due to the potential workload in these conditions.
"We will see and assess their (Jurel and Bharat) performances," said Rohit, refusing to reveal his hand before the toss. "We are looking at the bigger picture, and we will give as many games as possible to the individual. Whatever is right for the team, we will do that,” he added.
Patidar gets his chance: Young guns preferred over experience for home series
The inclusion of uncapped batsman Rajat Patidar as a late addition to replace Kohli surprised many. However, Rohit Sharma explained the rationale behind selecting younger players over experienced campaigners for a home series.
"We did actually think about it (picking a senior player) but all these younger players, when are they going to get their opportunity?," Rohit questioned, acknowledging the difficulty of leaving out experienced players.
"You need to bring certain players into your set-up and give them favourable conditions. You don’t want to expose them on foreign tours where they have not played before. That’s the thought behind all of that," he concluded.
With the stage set for the first Test in Hyderabad, Rohit Sharma and his team management have some crucial decisions to make. The answers to these selection puzzles will unfold on Thursday, and they will hold the key to India's fortunes in the opening encounter of the World Test Championship series against England.