India are set to face off against England in Birmingham for the fifth Test of the incomplete Test series from last year. The match was postponed after a COVID-19 outbreak in the Indian camp.
A lot has changed since the fourth Test last summer, with Rohit Sharma now leading the Indian team and Ben Stokes captaining England. The Three Lions also have a new Test head coach in Brendon McCullum and have revamped their approach to the red-ball game.
As far as the Indian team is concerned, they have most bases covered with a potent bowling attack to take on England. But opening could be an area that could trouble the management.
Here we present three reasons why Shubman Gill shouldn’t open the innings, with or without Rohit Sharma in the playing XI.
#3 Shubman Gill can be used in the middle order as an enforcer and anchor
Shubman Gill has played just one Test in England, against New Zealand in the World Test Championship final, where he scored 28 and eight in the two innings, respectively. And with the upcoming match being of high value, as a draw or a win would secure the series for India, the visitors can’t afford to lose early wickets.
A lot depends on captain Rohit Sharma’s availability, but Gill could play a far more important role in the middle order. He can be used as an enforcer if India wish to up the ante, and can also hold one end in case of a collapse.
With Mayank Agarwal joining the squad in England, he could partner Rohit up top, allowing Gill to slot in the middle order. But he will have to contest Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer for the number five spot.
#2 Gill will be judged on the basis of just one match
Another downside of Gill opening the innings in Birmingham is that he will be judged on the basis of his performance in just one match. The right-handed batter has a promising future and has shown that he doesn’t get flustered by the occasion.
However, in case he fails to perform, Shubman Gill could come under intense scrutiny. He still hasn’t cemented his spot at the top of the order for India, with KL Rahul and Rohit being the first-choice openers. However, a groin injury has ruled the former out of the Test, which has made Gill the first choice.
Thus, a confidence-breaking outing here could affect his spot in the Indian squad in the future.
#1 Have Pujara open the innings with Vihari at No. 3 for extra solidity
Team India could also have Cheteshwar Pujara open the innings. Pujara recently fared brilliantly in county cricket, amassing 720 runs in five matches, including four centuries, for Sussex. The 34-year-old will now be keen to continue his purple patch for the national side.
This would allow the visitors to have Hanuma Vihari at No. 3 to provide extra solidity to their innings and allow the middle order to express themselves.
Shubman Gill could drop into the middle order in this case as well, but then Iyer, who has shown good form recently, will have to do with a spot on the bench.
India’s squad for Birmingham Test: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Prasidh Krishna and Mayank Agarwal