India squad for WTC 2021-23 final: Rohit Sharma (c), KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat.
Rohit Sharma, India’s captain and best batter on their 2021-2022 tour of England, is set to be arguably the most important member of their batting unit once more against the Australia pace attack.
Partnering Rohit at the top of the order will be Shubman Gill, riding on an incredible across-format wave of form by anyone’s standards. He is set to make amends to his poor Test record in England (57 runs at 14.25 across two Test matches in England including the 2021 World Test Championship final).
Sussex captain Cheteshwar Pujara will bank on his incredible form in England (1,718 runs at 85.90 with eight hundreds in 15 matches). Of particular interest will be his contests against Nathan Lyon when the pair clash for the first time outside their respective home nations.
A lot has transpired since Virat Kohli last toured England. He has scored hundreds in all three formats as well as in the IPL, putting an end to a barren stretch that predated the global pandemic. As always, all eyes will be on him.
Had this not been a one-off Test match, India might have banked on a younger batter instead of Ajinkya Rahane. He has been in terrific form of late, albeit in a format and conditions as different from a Test match at The Oval as possible, and will be raring to prove a point if he is re-selected.
With at least six right-arm fast bowlers set to feature, Ravindra Jadeja’s spin will have a role to play later in the Test match. Before that, as the only left-handed bat, he will be key in the middle-order. The last time India played at The Oval, in 2021, Jadeja batted at five in each innings, above Rahane.
In his debut series against Australia, KS Bharat was sound behind the stumps. In front of them, he got runs when everyone did and failed when the top order caved in, so there is little to tell there. India have groomed him as the talismanic Rishabh Pant’s backup, and he will reprise that role again.
Yet again, India will face the R Ashwin conundrum. Should they leave out the leading wicket-taker in the squad? Yet, Surrey have fielded all-pace attacks in their three County Championship matches at The Oval this season, and have won all three by huge margins. If that is an indication of the conditions, Shardul Thakur should get the nod ahead of Ashwin.
When India last played at The Oval, in 2021, Umesh Yadav was given the first over ahead of Jasprit Bumrah in each innings. He also finished as India’s best bowler, with 3-76 and 3-60 in what was surprisingly his second Test in England. He was in fine form against Australia earlier this year.
Mohammed Shami will spearhead the India attack in Bumrah’s absence, and will be probably the most important bowler of the line-up with both the new ball and the old.
No longer the raw fast bowler of 2021, the untiring, relentless Mohammed Siraj will be key to India’s success. He has bowled against the Australians for both India A and India, and is among the best-equipped in the squad.