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Ashwin’s 100th Test, Patidar or DDP? – 5 Talking Points of Ind vs Eng 5th Test

From Ashwin's historic feat to India's selection dilemmas, we delve into the 5 talking points of #INDvsENG 5th Test.

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At the scenic Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, on 7 March, the Indian men’s cricket team will grace the newly-relaid outfield for the culmination act of an ongoing five-match Test series against England.

Had this match been played before August 2019, it would have faced denigration, alongside being relegated to the category of the ‘dead rubber.’ With India having already won the last three Tests, the outcome of this match will have any repercussion on the fate of the series.

Yet, in the era of ICC World Test Championships, dead rubbers are all but, well, dead. India’s PCT (percentage of points won out of total points contested) of 64.58% is not lightyears ahead of that of New Zealand (60%) and Australia (59.09%), and with a seemingly challenging five-match away series against the Aussies on the horizon, they are certain to treat the upcoming fixture with the respect it merits.

Before they do that, we delve into the five major talking points of the match:

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1. Ravichandran Ashwin Poised To Join the ‘Century’ Club

Only three weeks since etching his name as the second Indian cricketer to claim 500 Test wickets, Ravichandran Ashwin stands on the brink of another historic milestone. Come Thursday, should he feature in the playing XI, Ashwin will become the 14th Indian cricketer to play 100 or more Test matches, and only the second off-spinner to do so, after Harbjahan Singh.

Only three weeks since etching his name as the second Indian cricketer to claim 500 Test wickets, Ravichandran Ashwin stands on the brink of another historic milestone. Come Thursday, should he feature in the playing XI, Ashwin will become the 14th Indian cricketer to play 100 or more Test matches, and only the second off-spinner to do so, after Harbjahan Singh.

Ashwin is twelve wickets away from dethroning Courtney Walsh as the eighth-highest wicket-taker of all time in Test cricket, whilst if he picks seven wickets, he will be among the top ten all-time leading wicket-takers against England in Test cricket.

On his last, and solitary Test appearance in Dharamsala, he scalped four wickets by conceding 83 runs against Australia.

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2. Rajat Patidar or Devdutt Padikkal? India’s Stick-Or-Twist Dilemma

Among the two major dilemmas the Indian team management are having to confront ahead of the game is the selection dilemma between Rajat Patidar and Devdutt Padikkal.

For his two consecutive centuries against England Lions, coupled with his consistent run-scoring spree in first-class cricket for Madhya Pradesh, Rajat Patidar earned his debut cap in the second Test. And since then, he has featured in every match of this series, albeit with underwhelming returns to justify his selection.

A 32-run knock on his maiden Test innings remains Patidar’s highest score, with the subsequent outcomes being – 9, 5, 0, 17, 0. Should India opt for a switch, they have a made-to-order replacement available in Devdutt Padikkal.

The 23-year-old southpaw scored a century and a half-century against the England Lions, while he also is Karnataka’s leading run-scorer in the 2023/24 Ranji Trophy season.

Although, Rohit Sharma’s comment on Patidar on the eve of the fixture suggests that Padikkal might have to bide his time for his Test debut.

Rajat Patidar has very good abilities. And I like him. I see him as a talented player. We need to give him some more time.
Rohit Sharma
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3. Will India Field Three Seamers?

This series has not adhered to the pattern of seamers being reduced to mere ice-breakers – bowling only the first few overs – in Test matches on Indian soil. Jasprit Bumrah was exquisite in Visakhapatnam, Akash Deep was impressive on his debut in Ranchi, and Mohammed Siraj did a commendable job in Rajkot.

In Dharamsala, there are chances – albeit slim – of seeing the trio bowling in tandem. The prevailing overcast conditions, coupled with a temperature range between 7°C and 16°C, could provide an opportunity for pacers to extract more from the track than their spin counterparts.

On being asked about the possibility of fielding a third seamer, Rohit Sharma stated:

If we feel the weather is going to be like this, there is a good chance (of playing three seamers). We've not yet completely decided on it, but there is a good chance, definitely.
Rohit Sharma
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4. Much Ado About Dharamsala

In the only Test match Dharamsala has hosted, contested between India and Australia in March 2017, 18 of the 32 wickets were scalped by spinners. The nascent track, however, has not behaved in a similar manner.

In the last Ranji Trophy fixture at the HPCA stadium between Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, seamers accounted for all of the 36 wickets that fell in the game. The preceding contest, between Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, witnessed only two of the 25 wickets falling to the spinners.

Moreover, rain might play spoilsport in the first and the last day of the Test, further facilitating the pacers to assert their influence. On being asked about his comprehension of the pitch, Rohit Sharma said:

I don't really know too much about it (the pitch). But looking at the pitch right now, it looks like a good pitch. Obviously you have to expect, when there's weather like that, that there will be some movement. Maybe later on, as the game goes on, there will be some turn.
Rohit Sharma
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5. Milestones on the Horizon in England’s Camp, Too

For all of the hubbub around Ashwin, he is not the only cricketer nearing a milestone prior to the Dharamsala Test. From England’s camp, Jonny Bairstow and James Anderson are on the verge of etching their names in the annals of history.

Like Ashwin, Jonny Bairstow is set to mark his 100th Test appearance, making him only the 17th English cricketer to do so. Following a horrendous run of form, which saw him scoring only 170 runs in four matches without going north of 40 runs in any innings, Bairstow will be willing to make his momentous occasion memorable.

Anderson, meanwhile, is only two wickets away from becoming only the third player in the game’s history with 700 or more Test wickets. In case he scalps ten wickets instead of two, he will be the joint second-highest wicket-taker of all time in this format, alongside the late Shane Warne.

Talking about the 41-year-old seamer, English skipper Ben Stokes said:

Jimmy (is) coming up to 700 wickets. It's phenomenal to think about, especially as a seam bowler. Amazing career to date, and I can't see him stopping.
Ben Stokes

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