India have a plethora of options up their sleeve in Test cricket now after a successful Australia tour, but if they do have a fully fit squad at their disposal, what would the Indian management deem their best XI to be in home Tests?
Stats from home Tests alone
Who will open the innings?
Rohit Sharma – Matches: 14, Runs: 1,325 @ 88, 100s: 6, 50s: 5 HS: 212
Mayank Agarwal – Matches: 5, Runs: 597 @ 99.5, 100s: 3, 50s: 0 HS: 243
Shubman Gill – Yet to play at home
KL Rahul – Matches: 14, Runs: 885 @ 44, 100s: 1, 50s: 8 HS: 199
Rohit Sharma‘s record at home in Test cricket is mind-blowing: an average of 88 including a Test double hundred makes him the first-choice opener at home for India. In three of his last six home Test innings, Rohit has hit a century. After his decent outing in Australia, there’s no question of India lining up without him at the top in home Tests at least.
Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal tussle it out for the second opener’s slot, although KL Rahul is another left-field choice in the wings. While Mayank was as good as Rohit in the home series against South Africa, Gill’s form in Australia, combined with Mayank’s own rough patch away from home means that the 21-year-old is best-placed to open alongside Rohit.
Mayank is unlucky to miss out on an opportunity to play on the more batting friendly wickets at home, but the team management would view it as a step backwards to now sit out Gill immediately after his success in Australia.
TEAM – Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya (VC), KL Rahul, Hardik, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Md. Siraj, Shardul Thakur
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 19, 2021
A settled middle-order batting group
Cheteshwar Pujara – Matches: 41, Runs: 3,471 @ 59, 100s: 10, 50s: 18, HS: 206*
Virat Kohli – Matches: 39, Runs: 3,558 @ 68, 100s: 13, 50s: 10, HS: 254*
Ajinkya Rahane – Matches: 27, Runs: 1,493 @ 39, 100s: 4, 50s: 7, HS: 188
Cheteshwar Pujara is India’s second-highest run-scorer at home among these group of players. The No.3 batsman has four half-centuries in his last five Test innings at home and is a definite starter in the line-up, home or away.
Virat Kohli returns to skipper the side after missing three Tests in Australia. Kohli’s record in home Tests over the last decade is incredible and his position at No.4 is as secure as his position in the pantheon of all-time greats of the game.
Ajinkya Rahane‘s home record is a tad bizarre. While he has been one of India’s most reliable batsmen away from home since his debut, his home record hasn’t quite been up to the mark. However, there are signs to show that is turning around. In his last four Test innings at home, Rahane has made more than fifty each time. The upcoming England series will be a big test for him, especially since the likes of Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (with Saha as keeper) and Mayank Agarwal are other batting options waiting in the wings.
Do India need an all-rounder?
Hardik Pandya – Matches: 1, Runs: 71 @ 71, HS: 71, 0 wickets
Hardik Pandya has only once played at home, smashing 71 against Afghanistan in 2018. However, much of his absence has been down to injury, and he offers a combination of explosive hitting and Test-level pace bowling possessed only by a few. There’s an argument that he could balance India’s XI, allowing them to lengthen their batting and play one fewer seam bowler.
However, with Ravindra Jadeja at No.7 and Rishabh Pant taking the gloves, India’s batting is already plenty long enough, and so Pandya misses out.
The wicketkeeping conundrum
Rishabh Pant – Matches: 2, Runs: 184 @ 92, 100s: 0, 50s: 2, HS: 92, Catches: 5, Stumpings: 2
Wriddhiman Saha – Matches: 23, Runs: 678 @ 31, 100s: 2, 50s: 2, HS: 117, Catches: 56, Stumpings: 4
Rishabh Pant pips Wriddhiman Saha for a place in the XI after his exploits in Australia. India might be tempted to try and squeeze both in, but the current top five is untouchable, and four bowlers is one to few on the flatter Indian tracks, so it’s one or the other. Saha is the better gloveman, but you fancy India won’t make the mistake of leaving Pant out of an XI again any time soon. His wicketkeeping will remain under scrutiny in the series, as will his batting consistency.
The spin twins pick themselves
R Ashwin – Matches: 43, Wickets: 254 @22, Five-fors: 21, BBI: 7-59, BBM: 13-140
R Jadeja – Matches: 33, Wickets: 157 @21, Five-fors: 7, BBI: 7-48, BBM: 10-154
R Ashwin seemed to be returning to some decent batting form in Australia, and in home Tests at least, Ashwin has done enough to justify a promotion in the batting order. But when Ravindra Jadeja returns to the mix, he remains India’s first-choice all-rounder for the No.7 position, doubling up as the second spinner.
Ashwin and Jadeja have a formidable home record with the ball and virtually pick themselves in India’s best XI at home. The last time India played a home Test with neither of them in the starting XI was in 2010. When they are fit and available, the two remain no-brainers in the line-up.
India have inclined towards picking the extra fast bowler in home Tests of late, and it is likely that the management would prefer just two spinners and three quicks for home Tests.
Which three fast bowlers do India play?
Ishant Sharma – Matches: 37, Wickets: 98 @ 31, Five-fors: 2, BBI: 5-22, BBM: 9-78
Jasprit Bumrah – Yet to play at home
Mohammed Siraj – Yet to play at home
Mohammed Shami – Matches: 16, Wickets: 62 @ 21, Five-fors: 2, BBI: 5-35, BBM: 9-118
Umesh Yadav – Matches: 28, Wickets: 96 @ 24, Five-fors: 2, BBI: 6-88, BBM: 10-133
Ishant’s home record isn’t overly impressive, but in the last series against Bangladesh, Ishant stepped up to claim a five-wicket haul, his first in a home Test since 2007. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, however, have a better record at home and in a three-prong attack, it is likely that one of them, if not both, edges out Ishant.
The wait might finally be over and Jasprit Bumrah could indeed play his first ever home Test in the upcoming series against England. Injury and workload has played a part in Bumrah’s delayed home debut in the longest format of the game, but there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that he would adapt seamlessly.
Umesh has had amazing success in home Tests with his skiddy pace and stump-to-stump lines. But Bumrah could is expected to do a similar job, skidding balls through at pace, targetting the stumps. If Bumrah is unavailable, Umesh could play, otherwise, it is likely that Shami gets picked over Umesh for the reverse swing and extra bounce he generates.
Siraj is yet to play a home Test, but an incredible first-class record and the absence of some first-choice seamers at home means that he is likely in India’s long-term plans. Siraj has 165 wickets in 41 first-class games at an average of 23.92 and a strike-rate of 46.3. This and his impeccable introduction to Test cricket in Australia should make him a definite starter for the first two Tests against England at least.
India’s best possible XI in home Tests: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah.