Kohli and Shastri pull the right reigns - at last!
The duo finally get the combination of their team right.
It took a while but they got there, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri were right on the money with their selections for the third test at Trent Bridge. Replacing Murali Vijay, a supremely talented but out of form opener, with Shikhar Dhawan worked. The the easier choice of introducing Rishabh Pant over Dinesh Karthik proved a good one and having Jasprit Bumrah back in the team helped India to a comprehensive 3rd test win, and Virat Kohli’s aim to turn India into a winning touring team remains a chance.
Looking back to South Africa, India were criticized for their lack of preparation, and given their batting didn't adjust to the conditions well enough, it could be argued the criticism was justified. However they made some errors with selection that also cost them.
Rohit Sharma undoubtedly has talent, but that is yet to transfer to the long form of the game. He did well on home soil against Sri Lanka leading into the series, and was selected over Ajinkya Rahane to bat at 5. Normally selecting a player on form over reputation makes a lot of sense, but on this occasion there were a couple of important things that may have been overlooked.
Rahane is the team vice captain and a senior member of the team. Rahane's form may have been poor leading into that series, however some players earn a longer rope and more chances to come good. Rahane is one of these players.
His record overseas, including South Africa, was excellent. He also had helped take the deciding test away from Australia when the two clashed in 2017. He stood up when it mattered. Rahane's non selection, although justified if selecting on form, just lacked a little bit of the loyalty he had earned.
Once again in the second test they opted for Sharma over Rahane, a test they lost by 135 runs. The series was over.
In England for the first test, India dropped Cheteshwar Pujara, who wasn't in great form, and managed to fit three openers into the team. None did well.
India in recent times also have been batting their wicket keeper at 6 in the batting order. They did with Saha and Patel in South Africa, and have done it with Dinesh Karthik in England. The problem is this tactic has not come off. Not once in the six tests against South Africa and England has it worked, but India have persisted with it.
Australia had a batsman in Adam Gilchrist who was of high quality. However, with the rare exception of trying to chase runs, Gilchrist batted at 7. The keepers traditional spot at 7 provided Australia with a balance they could see value in. When India finally batted their maturing all rounder in Pandya at 6 in the first innings at Trent Bridge, and newcomer Pant at 7, they finally had a balance that was missing previously. Pant made a promising start to his test career. When they shifted the keeper to 6 in the second innings, he missed out with a score of 1. It will be interesting to see India's next move on this front.
If we look at the second test team, selecting two spinners on a wicket where a spinner didn't take a wicket for the test was a mistake.
In the third test at Nottingham, they got it right. Two openers and not three. Pujara and Rahane, their trusted top order batsmen in their right positions, with King Kohli in between them. Their all rounder at 6 and their keeper at 7. Ashwin is a test number 8, and a good one at that. Then the bowlers. Three seamers on this wicket was the right choice.
Shastri and Kohli have been trying to follow their instinct for 8 months now, starting in January at South Africa. They had not got it right, but when they did, India produced their best performance for the year.