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Hanuma Vihari or Ravindra Jadeja? Colin de Grandhomme or Ajaz Patel?

The selection puzzles that await India and New Zealand ahead of the World Test Championship final

With conditions expected to influence play heavily, both teams will have selection concerns. Here is a look at how India and New Zealand might line up for the World Test Championship final.


Does Vihari get in?
Since the Melbourne Test, India have been playing just five specialist batters. Those five, when all are fit and available, have picked themselves: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane.
However - and it will depend on conditions - there might be a temptation to bolster the batting considering it's still early in the English summer and India will be up against a strong bowling attack. Hanuma Vihari, who gets in should India go for batting cover, was the first Indian player to reach England for his three-match stint for Warwickshire in the early part of the County Championship. Although he struck just one half-century in six innings, he has had the most match time, importantly in conditions that were cold and overcast.
Is there room for Siraj?
Mohammed Siraj was the best fast bowler for India in Australia. Speed and movement, with both the old and the new ball, come easy to him, and he can bowl long spells. On India A's shadow tour of England in 2018, Siraj took 15 wickets in two Tests against the England Lions and West Indies A at an average of 17.73, including three 4-fors. Siraj has done everything he can to push the team management for a place in the XI. However, only three specialist fast bowlers might play, and the first three are pretty hard to dislodge.
Jasprit Bumrah, who played three Tests during the 2018 tour, has the best strike rate and average, and will be the strike bowler. With 12 Tests spread across four tours, along with county stints, Ishant Sharma is the most experienced in English conditions. He also was the highest wicket-taker in the 2018 series with 18 wickets. Mohammed Shami might have the weakest numbers in terms of average and strike rate, but with his accuracy and pace he is always a threat. Bumrah is all set to be the No. 1 fast bowler, leaving the team management with the tough selection to plausibly decide on two out of Siraj, Shami and Ishant.

New Zealand

Does Henry have a compelling case for selection?
New Zealand played two Test matches in England earlier this month, so they have fewer dilemmas around their combination. Devon Conway has grabbed the vacant opening slot, Ross Taylor had a score, and Kane Williamson and BJ Watling are likely to be fit again.
There might have been a temptation to play Matt Henry ahead of Neil Wagner on account of his county experience and the possible redundancy of Wagner's short-ball methods. Wagner, though, has shown he can swing the ball and operate effectively in a more conventional role too. Also, with Trent Boult back and Tim Southee in prime form, Henry is unlikely to get the new ball.
A specialist spinner or a seam-bowling allrounder?
With five batters, the wicketkeeper and four quick bowlers locked in, New Zealand only have to debate between a spinner in Ajaz Patel, which rounds up their attack should the Southampton track behave true to nature, and Colin de Grandhomme, who makes their batting order formidable and denies the opposition any breathing space should the conditions favour seamers heavily. If Patel plays, New Zealand will have Kyle Jamieson at No. 7; if de Grandhomme plays, they will be without a frontline spinner, a move their opponents England regretted only last week.