England v India, 4th Investec Test, Old Trafford August 5, 2014

Ashwin possibly in, Dhawan possibly out for Manchester


If the signs from India's net sessions are anything to go by, R Ashwin seems set to play his first Test of 2014. It is not clear if he will take the place of Rohit Sharma or Ravindra Jadeja if he does so. During their loss in Southampton, India rarely used Jadeja as a wicket-taking bowler, but equally Rohit disappointed with his shot-selection in the first innings, stepping out and hitting Moeen Ali straight to mid-off five minutes before tea. Rohit seems to be the likelier one to go out, with India returning to their five-batsmen formula of the first two Tests.

India's other worry that was accentuated in Southampton was their slip-catching. Jadeja dropped Alastair Cook on 15 in the first innings, and watched him return to form. Shikhar Dhawan dropped one catch in the second innings, a catch that MS Dhoni should have gone for. Dhoni later said that slip-catching was an issue, but added that Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Jadeja were the best three he had as a cordon.

However, there were enough signs in the nets two days ahead of the Old Trafford Test to suggest that that cordon will need a rejig. Dhawan is now an unlikely starter after six failures with the bat, and when India did their slips practice, M Vijay had moved in at first slip. Dhawan did not bat as much as he has been doing, and Gautam Gambhir can be hopeful of a Test return after having last played in late 2012.

It is not a given, though. Gambhir got a hit just after Vijay, but struggled a bit, and spent most of the remaining session sat on a cooler box. There is a line of thought that Cheteshwar Pujara could be asked to open with the other batsmen moving up one spot. In that scenario, Rohit could be retained, with Ashwin replacing Dhawan in the XI.

There might be confusion around the openers and No. 6, but there was also good news for India. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose swollen ankle had been a cause for concern, bowled for about 50 minutes in the nets without any visible discomfort. If he can manage similar fitness on Wednesday, he should be certain to share the new ball with Mohammed Shami on Thursday.

Pankaj Singh, who was unlucky in going wicketless on Test debut in Southampton, is not likely to witness a turnaround in his luck. Jharkhand quick Varun Aaron looks likely to replace Pankaj, with the latter doing hardly any bowling at the nets.

There has been another interesting trend in the India nets since they have arrived in Manchester. Their batsmen, mainly Pujara and Virat Kohli, have been going through stints in nets where they sweep, sweep and then sweep some more. That India lost six second-innings wickets to Moeen in Southampton is a big source of frustration for them. Dhoni said he does not want his batsmen to let Moeen settle into a rhythm. India were aggressive against the offspinner, but lost Rohit in the process in the first innings.

India batsmen are not natural sweepers of the ball. They like to use their feet to get to the pitch of the ball. Before this Test, though, the sweep, with the batsmen consciously getting outside the line of off and with the bat coming down from quite high, seems to be an addition the coaches want them to make.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sreenivasan on August 6, 2014, 15:41 GMT

    I think Ashwin should be selected not only for his bowling but also for his excellent batting average outside the sub continent and also as a slip catcher. India looked really good when they went with 5 bowlers. It raised the expectations of the viewers and also gave a sense of assurance that they can pick 20 wickets in a test match.

  • Manthiswaran on August 6, 2014, 15:33 GMT

    It's certain that Gauthi and Ashwin gonna play tomorrow. Manchester pitch will assist spinners at 4th and 5th day so Ashwin could be the main guy and the luck should favor us as we have to bat 1st and score some runs so that we can attack them at 4th or 5th day. Hope Gauthi wouldn't miss his chance as we need this kind of player at the top, we all was thinking that Vijay to be dropped but things have changed lot and Kohli & Pujara has to score atleast 50 in this game or else they will lose the self confident but hope they can overcome this problem. My XI:: Gauthi, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahena, Dhoni, Jaddu, Ashwin, Bhuvi, Shammi and Pankaj/Varun. This line up has 9 batsmen and we can rock this test.

  • Ashok on August 6, 2014, 15:17 GMT

    @ravimennon: I am one of the strong supporters of Ashwin not because of his overseas record but because of LOGIC! When England has 5 or 6 LH batsmen, the best way to counter it is via a RH off spinner. Cook, Balance, Robson at the top will find Ashwin not easy to handle. These 3 have scored heavily because Dhoni ignored Ashwin for the first 3 Tests. Jadeja is an economical spinner who can keep the scoring rate down as a foil to 3 fast bowlers at the other end. So comparing him to Moen is not valid. Don't forget Moen was expensive in the first 2 Tests! England has at least 4 specialist fast bowlers in all 3 Tests+ Moen as the spinner= 5 bowlers. India had just 3 pace bowlers + a run stopping spinner= 3.5 Bowlers. Dhoni's best chance is to use N.Ojha as a WK/batsman opener or @#5. Aaron in pace with Kumar & Shami/Pankaj or Pandey + Ashwin & Jadeja as the spinners give India the best choice of bowlers- a combo of Hostility, Spin & Economy. Ojha will be the X-Factor! Hope Dhoni "GETS IT"!

  • Tahir on August 6, 2014, 15:16 GMT

    We have discussed all combinations of the indian team for the forthcoming test but regret to say that any of them is not capable to win a test unless there is Lord's like surprise. The reason being too much expectations from players who have only limited overs credentials to their name. The indian team looks totally out of sorts with Bhuvi one of the leading run scorer and a part time spinner breaking their back. Indian batsmen faltered against Moeen in the first test even when Binny came to rescue india from a first test loss. It shows that fab4 era has well and truly gone and replacements have not been found. Thisa time pace was gradually increased test by test but still indian team could not survive. Certainly, a five test series involving india is too much for the fans to watch.

  • Kuldeep on August 6, 2014, 15:15 GMT

    vijay, gambhir, pujara, kohli, rahane, rohit, dhoni, ashwin, bhuvi, aaron, pankaj

  • Pranav on August 6, 2014, 15:10 GMT

    @spinkingKK... are you seriously considering dropping pujara and keeping Rohit? And Binny as a 4th seamer? your squad will lose with ease.

    1. GG 2. Vijay 3. Pujara 4. Virat 5. Rahane 6. MSD 7. Ashwin 8. Jadeja/Seamer depending on conditions 9. Bhuvi 10. Aaron 11. Singh

    Conditions should decide 2 spinners 3 seamers vs 1 spinner 4 seamers

  • Dummy4 on August 6, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    @ Sriman N Emany Drop Dhawan, Rohit, Shami and Pankaj for Naman Ojha, Ashwin, Aaron and Ishwar Pandey.. Rahane is a natural opener !! 1. Vijay 2. Rahane 3. Pujara 4. Kohli 5. Ojha 6. Dhoni 7. Jadeja 8. Ashwin 9. Bhuvaneswar 10. Aaron 11. Ishwar We can expect runs till No 9 and Dhoni can also be handful with the ball in English conditions with Ojha taking the gloves !! i second it

  • Dummy4 on August 6, 2014, 15:00 GMT

    Pujara at No.1/2 is definitely worth a try. I would replace Rohit and bring in Naman and Ashwin coming in place of Dhawan. Naman can keep and MSD can try his luck with the ball, wud be interesting to see how he fairs in English conditions. I would rather like to gamble with Ashwin opening the batting with Vijay. Wonder MSD would take that chance!!! Aaron should be brought in place of Shami (he has lost it completely, unless he turns it around this time and make me eat my words, wouldn't complain though). Pankaj Singh should be given another chance here, if he does not do well then anyways Ishant will replace him in the last test. He was damn unlucky and could have easily made a wonderful debue had luck gone his way. Definitely deserves another chance specially considering the ineffectiveness of Shami.

    India needs to show the desperation to hang in there till the last moment even if results don't go there way. We want to see the fight not the meek surrender witnessed a few days ago

  • Prashanth on August 6, 2014, 14:58 GMT

    @wolf777- The pitches for the previous two matches weren't supposed to assist spin either, but it made a part timer like Ali look sensational. India is never good at managing four seamers or 3 spinners. So better go with 3 seamers and 2 spinners. With Ishant out, Bhuvi not 100% fit, Shami out of form, all they have is Pankaj and Aaron who are one test match old and Ishwar who is yet to make a debut. So we need additional bowling resources. Our batting lineup is still inexperienced and its not like Ashwin is replacing a Laxman or a Ganguly who have big hundreds to their names. Ashwin, as a batsman too is very capable and has even got a better temperament than a Rohit or a Dhawan. Even if the two spinners won't be effective in the first innings, they will definitely play a big part in the last two days. Hence the two spinners strategy.

  • Ashok on August 6, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    Dhoni needs a right XI to counter England in the 4th Test. From the 3rd Test, one obvious change is to replace Rohit Sharma with a Bowler. Automatic choice is Ashwin. Naman Ojha is coming from a fantastic batting form in Australia & should be IN as an opener in place of Dhawan. Lastly Aaron can come in place of Pankaj or Shami. I am assuming that Kumar will be fit to play. This will give India 2 spinners- one a wkt. taker in Ashwin whilst Jadeja keeps the runs down. In pace Aaron provides the hostility in short bursts whilst Kumar & Shami should take care of the top order with the new ball. This way there are at least 3 wkt. takers in Ashwin, Kumar & Aaron + Shami if he regains his form!. In batting Pujara & Kohli need to score big with discipline & patience by keeping both the ends sealed tight. Vijay needs to continue his scoring form along with Rahane. Dhoni, Jadeja, Ashwin & Kumar can all bat. Ojha & Vijay need to give India a great start + Slips MUST take catches - Key to winning

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