India in England 2014 August 13, 2014

Ishant a chance to play at The Oval

After being ruled out of the last two Tests with a leg injury, India's premier seamer could return in place of Pankaj Singh, while Gautam Gambhir looks set to keep the opening slot at The Oval

MS Dhoni's joke after losing at Old Trafford that India got two extra days off might not have gone down well with some fans, but the players have managed to fit in a lot of action in the time off.

Some have seen Manchester United play, some Chelsea, and there has also been a long paintball event. When they took the field two days before the Test, Dhoni was missing. In his absence, Duncan Fletcher and Virat Kohli addressed the huddle, and India even played a different sport to warm up. Dhoni has always been dead set on football, but on Thursday, they played a version of handball with white cricket balls.

Dhoni's absence raised a few doubts about his availability for the final Test - he has been taking blows on the body through the series - but it turned out he took leave from training to go for a shooting session at a firing range. That Naman Ojha hardly got any batting practice means Dhoni should be fit to play.

Another person whose fitness India can be optimistic about is Ishant Sharma. The seamer missed two Tests to a "leg injury", which the Indian management will not elaborate on, but from towards the end of the Old Trafford Test, Ishant has been gradually increasing his bowling load. Tuesday was a day off for the team, but on Wednesday Ishant came to The Oval and bowled at full pelt for about half an hour, and how he wakes up after this bowling load might decide whether he will play on Friday. Ishant was Man of the Match in India's win at Lord's, and the bowling has not quite looked the same after his injury. If he plays, he should replace Pankaj Singh.

Gautam Gambhir, who struggled on his comeback at Old Trafford, seems set to get another chance. The batsman spent a long time in the nets, working hard with Trevor Penney who gave him throw-downs. The two seemed to be discussing the outside edge, and how to avoid it. India are yet to enjoy a 50-run opening stand in eight Tests since they left home for South Africa late last year, but they are not too keen to change the combination again.

Shikhar Dhawan, the opener who was dropped for Gambhir, and Rohit Sharma, who has played only in Southampton, hardly got a bat in the nets. This could point to India continuing with five specialist batsmen followed by Dhoni and allrounders.

One of the allrounders could change, though. In an interesting twist, India gave Stuart Binny a long hit at the start of the training session, alongside R Ashwin, which could mean a swap with Ravindra Jadeja, but the session was not as organised as India's earlier ones.

Binny for Jadeja might just be an option India want to keep open. Jadeja and the opening slot are two big concerns for India. Even though Jadeja played a big part in India's win at Lord's, his batting is low percentage, and his bowling mostly one-dimensional. He was not present for the slip-catching practice at the end of the session. Only M Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane took catches there. India's fans will hope that just two slips is not a sign of things to come.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Android on August 15, 2014, 9:45 GMT

    @winner2008 it's a really brave selection horses for courses kind of..ojha for gambhir. good looking team and formation. .including ashwin, rahane, bhuvi at the top will surely work as they are better players of moving ball at present.. These changes are seen only on paper under Dhoni s captaincy it ll be a defensive tactics ..

  • adarsh on August 15, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    If I were the Indian Captain, I would have taken some risk at this point. My team would be( in the batting order)

    M Vijay, A Rahane, G Gambhir, B Kumar, C Pujara, MS Dhoni, V Kohli, M Shami, I Pandey, I Sharma, V Aron

    Yes, 5 pace bowlers, attack them! Why should we select spinners as they are not taking wickets..for some 40 odd runs??

    Someone need to advise dhoni to show some courage..atleast 4 fast bowlers!

  • Android on August 15, 2014, 7:45 GMT

    I think Rohit Sharma shud get a chance instead of gambhir... because rohit can open the batting n also gives an assurance to bowl nd take wickets lyk he did in Southampton .. Ishant rightly deserves if hes in perfect in d nets ..since its a crucial match n india need to get all their combinations right.

  • Dummy4 on August 15, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    Gambhir does not look the part. A bold move is to play Rohit at opening with Vijay, Rahane at 3, Ashwin at 6, Jadeja at 8, Aaron, BK and IS as the seamers. But yes, Ashwin at 6, I have been saying this since the Australia 4-0 tour, overseas he is a better batsman than bowler.

  • Android on August 14, 2014, 17:34 GMT

    my expected team should be as vijay, ashwin, pujara, rahane, kohli, ojha, Dhoni, bhuvi, shami/ishanth, Aaron, pandey..ideal and strong looking team on field for series leveller..

  • Android on August 14, 2014, 17:13 GMT

    as per Dhoni s mentality tomorrow s team would be- dhawan, vijay, pujara, kohli, rahane, binny, Dhoni, ashwin, bhuvi, Aaron, ishanth. .just expect these players as per previous matches analogy.. Dhoni never changes!!

  • Ashok on August 14, 2014, 15:17 GMT

    @vrkp: I like your suggested XI except for Binny. India could go with extra Bowler or Batsman instead of Binny, who may be OK for ODI's but not for Tests. If there is an all rounder in the side he has to be reliable to produce. Kumar is that sort of pace bowling all rounder & Ashwin is the spin bowling all rounder. A "specialist" Bowler will give India good chance to get 20 wkts. because India need to go for a win. Ojha is coming with the confidence of some Big score in Australia. "Confidence" is missing in this team after 2 Bad Losses. Ojha's aggressive batting brings that. He also opened the innings in IPL with high degree of success. I appreciated Ashwin's technique as a batsman. He was an opening batsman once. Unfortunately the Indian selectors missed out selecting proper openers- instead of proven failed openers like Gambhir. Restoring Dhawan to open is other alternative but NOT Gambhir. Putting Ojha or Ashwin to open opens new unexplored avenues- better than 8 for 4 wkts!

  • mahi on August 14, 2014, 15:02 GMT

    Binny should be in for Jadeja. My playing XI: Gambhir, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli/Rohit, Rahane, Dhoni, binny, Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar, Ishant, Shami/pandey

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2014, 14:45 GMT

    My line up for Oval: Vijay, Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Aron, Stuart Binny/Pankaj Singh.

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2014, 14:42 GMT

    Agree with @Nampally @vrkp that Ashwin should bat up the order. But not as an opener. With his high backlift he will be a sitting duck against the moving ball. He is more suited at no.5 or no.6, ala VVS. The right opener or 1 drop now could be Ajinkya Rahane who has been in form. He can come 1 drop with Chetheshwar Pujara dropping to 4 and Kohli to 5 and Ashwin at 6. Gambhir should be dropped and Dhawan should play. At least with him, there are better chances of success.

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