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Australia v India

Why Shaw and why not Gill? Wisden India writers have their say on India XI for Australia Test

India XI
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

India have made some big calls in their XI for the first Test against Australia in the pink-ball Test – the Wisden India writers give their take on the picks.

After a lot of speculation, there is finally some certainty on India’s playing XI for the first Test of the marquee series against Australia. As with any playing XI, however, it added as many questions as answers.

From the selection of Prithvi Shaw over Shubman Gill to picking the experienced Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps, the Indian management has made a few choices the merits of which will become evident over the next few days.

Below, our writers give their assessment of the India XI for the all-important first Test in Adelaide.

Manoj Narayan, Wisden India editor

The India XI, on the whole, seems balanced. The big news is that Prithvi Shaw makes the cut, with Shubman Gill’s wait to make his Test debut prolonged. Ahead of the series, I was among those calling for Gill to take the opener’s slot alongside Mayank Agarwal, but the management has clearly invested in Shaw, and the potential for high returns he promises. And given his displays so far in the Test arena (a century and two half-centuries, averaging over 55 across four matches), it might be a decision that reaps just reward. Shaw will be under immediate pressure if he throws away his wicket, though, and batsmen are a breed that thrives on confidence. How he does will be an interesting watch, to say the least.

Shaw’s pick is also why the selection of Wriddhiman Saha as wicketkeeper makes sense. It lends more balance to the side’s batting, and that would not have been the case if Pant was given the big gloves. Both Shaw and Pant are adventurous batsmen, and having both of them in the XI might not have been prudent.

The rest of the picks are rather straightforward. The onus will be on Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to propel the innings, with solidity to follow with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Saha and Hanuma Vihari. R Ashwin, whose variations and expertise could prove the game-changer, also provides something with the bat, while in picking Umesh Yadav as the third seamer alongside Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, India have gone for a practitioner experienced in these conditions. In all, it’s a XI capable of coming away with something.

Aadya Sharma, Wisden India staff writer

The selection is on expected lines, especially after Kohli all but confirmed Shaw’s participation ahead of Gill. However, Gill’s compact technique and fluent strokeplay could have been backed by the Indian management, especially since the youngster has been waiting for a spot for nearly two years now, and did reasonably well in the practice games.

Saha over Pant for the pink-ball game also seems to be a logical choice after the former’s brilliance behind the stumps in India’s only day-night Test last year. The challenges would be different under lights, one that Saha seems better equipped to handle, even though it’s harsh on Pant based on recent batting form.

While there are formidable names on the team sheet, the bowling attack looks a bit thin. That’s possibly why the ever solid Vihari was picked ahead of Rahul, acting as India’s fifth bowling option in Jadeja’s absence. A proven match-winner, Ashwin’s game awareness was difficult to overlook in a format of Test cricket India is still getting used to, while the experienced Umesh seems to be the better choice for the series opener, ahead of the untested Saini and Siraj.

Sankalp Srivastava, Wisden India staff writer

I was probably one of only a handful of people calling for Prithvi Shaw’s selection for the Adelaide Test, and so the move from the Indian management to go that way makes sense to me. If he does fail, India will still have Gill to fall back on.

However, I don’t entirely see merit in the selection of Saha over Pant – sacrificing a top batsman, one who can change the course of the match in a session, for a ‘specialist wicketkeeper’ who doesn’t possess the same game-changing capabilities – is too much old-fashioned for me. India have missed the opportunity to go all-out attack in Adelaide by leaving Pant out, especially after his performance in the tour match against Australia A.

That also leaves Vihari with a crucial role to play in the middle order, with the more assiduous Saha and Ashwin coming after him. I was also hoping one of Saini or Siraj would be given the nod alongside Bumrah and Shami, but it was Umesh who trumped both of his RCB teammates.

Roshan Gede, Wisden India staff writer

I liked that the management picked  Saha over Pant, even though the latter scored a blazing hundred less than a week ago. Saha has been India’s best gloveman by some distance for some time now, and against a moving ball, there can’t be a safer bet behind the sticks. The bowling attack looks well-rounded too, with great mix of experience and skills, as does the middle order.

The only real concern is at the top – India have opted for flamboyance (Shaw) over assurance (Gill). Shaw’s numbers in Test cricket have been great thus far, with 335 runs in seven innings at 55.8, but that’s a small sample size, and over 70 per cent of those runs came against a weakened West Indies attack at home. He was found wanting against the new ball in the IPL – 10 of his 13 dismissals came in the powerplay, four in the first over – and that does give cause for worry, given he’ll now be up against the quality of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in the toughest format of all.

Shaw’s dismissals in the practice-games didn’t make for great viewing either. Maybe India expect him to score quick runs to turn the tide in their favour, much like a certain opener did in the 2000s. But it’s a big ask for the youngster.

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