'We are ready to play horses for courses' - Rohit Sharma on selection calls
India captain says they will pick their "best XI" depending on the pitch and conditions
Are India about to unleash Suryakumar Yadav on Test cricket? It's impossible to say, with Rohit Sharma remaining tight-lipped about specific selection calls on the eve of the Nagpur Test, but the India captain has promised a horses-for-courses approach through the four Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The course in Nagpur is expected to be a pitch that heavily favours spinners from day one, which could turn the Test match into a low-scoring shootout. If India are looking to induct a batter capable of scoring rapidly and putting spinners off their lengths with inventive shots, Suryakumar could be the horse for this course.
"What we have to do is we have to go to each venue, see the conditions, and try and get the best XI," Rohit said. "It's as simple as that, and that is what we have done in the past and that is what we will do moving forward.
"The message to the boys has been very clear. We are ready to play horses for courses. On whichever pitch, whoever we need, we have to bring them in. As simple as that. That is something that we have spoken to the guys [about] at the start of this series, and we will continue to do that. We have to assess what sort of conditions we are playing in, who are the right guys to counter that conditions, so things like that. We are quite open with all of those options."
Suryakumar and Shubman Gill appear to be contesting the No. 5 slot - No. 6 if India push Ravindra Jadeja up the order, as they have done a few times in the recent past - though there's a chance they could both play, if India are prepared to leave another batter - possibly KL Rahul - out.
Rohit highlighted the positives both Gill and Suryakumar would bring to the line-up if selected.
"Gill and Surya, they bring different things to the table for us," Rohit said. "Gill we all know has been in supreme form in the last three-four months. A lot of hundreds, big hundreds as well. On the other hand, Surya as well, in T20 cricket he's shown what he's capable of, and what sort of game he can bring to Test cricket as well. So both are quality options for us.
"We have not decided yet what we have to do with those two guys, but yeah, we will keep in mind all aspects of the game and see what it is. I just still have to have a final look at the pitch and maybe once I have a look at it, probably I'll have [an answer]. [I won't reveal it until] 9 o'clock tomorrow [at the toss]. I'm not going to give you anything today, 9 o'clock tomorrow is the right time."
While we may have to wait until then to know India's line-up, Rohit indicated that the team management is looking for someone to fill the hole left by Rishabh Pant's absence. Pant, who has undergone surgery after injuring multiple knee ligaments in a car crash in December, is likely to be out of action for the bulk of 2023. Over the last two years or so, he had been perhaps India's best Test batter, rescuing them from multiple crisis situations with his counterattacking skills.
"Rishabh was a very, very important player for us in that middle order, how he batted in the last few years for us," Rohit said. "We will definitely miss that, but yeah, we have got a few guys to come and do that job for us in the middle. We are keeping an eye on that particular aspect, where we need someone in the middle order to come and do that - not just the middle order, even in the top order.
"Because you are playing on such challenging pitches, you need guys to stand up and find ways to score runs because it's not going to be easy. We have seen it in the last few series when we played here [in India], you need orthodox cricket to be played as well. We've had a good, solid talk with all the batters, finding their own methods of scoring runs, countering what there is to offer and all of that. Hopefully tomorrow when we start the game, we can achieve all those things."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo