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Feature

India XI in Chattogram: Gill or Abhimanyu? Will Saurabh or Unadkat get in?

Have your say: Will it be three quicks and two spinners for India, or the other way around?

Himanshu Agrawal
13-Dec-2022
Five months after their last Test match, India take on Bangladesh in Chattogram from December 14. It will be India's first in Bangladesh in more than seven years, and they have their fair share of selection puzzles to deal with.
Who will open with Rahul?
Rohit Sharma has been ruled out of the first Test, and KL Rahul will stand in as captain. He is also set to be one of the openers, with Shubman Gill and Abhimanyu Easwaran likely to compete for the other slot.
Gill averages 30.47 after 11 Tests, with a best of 52 in his last 14 innings. He might have an edge over Abhimanyu, though, not least because of his superior experience at the highest level.
However, Abhimanyu has scores of 141 and 157 from the two four-day games for India A in Bangladesh recently. He has been around the national set-up for a while and has an experience of 78 first-class matches, where he averages 45.33.
No room in the middle order
The middle order looks like the only department that's set. Barring forced changes, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant should occupy the spots from Nos. 3 to 6.
The spin combination
Apart from R Ashwin, India have three spin-bowling options on the tour: Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Saurabh Kumar. Ashwin would be a certainty, and Axar might be the frontrunner for the second spinner's spot. Why? He is a like-for-like replacement for the injured Ravindra Jadeja, he has a stellar record in the six Tests he has played so far - 39 wickets at 12.43, and all those have been on pitches similar to the ones in Bangladesh. Axar also provides a better batting option than Kuldeep or Saurabh.
In case India choose three spinners, Kuldeep could get the nod ahead of the up-and-coming Saurabh, since Saurabh is a left-arm spinner - like Axar - and Kuldeep brings in more variety.
Who will provide the pace?
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, India's pace spearheads in Tests, are both out injured, but India do have five quicks to choose from in Bangladesh: Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini and Jaydev Unadkat.
Based on experience and form, two of Umesh and Siraj should get in if India play two quicks, with Thakur a possible option because of his batting ability.
Like Kuldeep, Umesh has found it tough to squeeze into a full-strength side since the emergence of Siraj. But he bagged four wickets in the second four-day game against Bangladesh A on the shadow tour, and holds the edge over Saini in case it comes to a toss-up.
That leaves Unadkat, whose only Test for India came 12 years ago. However, he brings with him the left-arm angle, and an experience of 96 first-class games in which he has 353 wickets.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo