Axar to Debut? What India’s Playing XI Could Look Like in 2nd Test

Barring any injuries the top six pick themselves and if passed fit, Axar Patel might well be in line for his debut.

4 min read
India take the field during England’s first innings in the first Chennai Test

After the first Test loss against England in Chennai, India captain Virat Kohli strongly defended the selection policies, but also said more variety in bowling would be one of the considerations. England and India will be back at it again from Saturday in the second Test in Chennai, and the hosts’ playing XI is once again the topic of debate.

The Indian team management copped a bit of flak from fans and some former players for not picking Kuldeep Yadav, however, Kohli defended that decision after the game.

“When you playing two off-spinners, Kuldeep becomes more or less same kind of spinner taking the ball away," Kohli had said at the press conference.

"We were quite clear on what we wanted to play, what combination we wanted to play. There are no regrets whatsoever on that decision. Moving forward, we will think of combinations, which brings us variety as a bowling attack. And not one dimensional, turning away from the bat.”

Once again, the conversations around the combinations will largely revolve around the bowling and batting abilities down the order. Barring any injuries the top six pick themselves and if passed fit eventually, Axar Patel might well be in line for his debut.

Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah in conversation during India’s training session in Chennai. 
Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah in conversation during India’s training session in Chennai. 
Image: BCCI

Axar Patel Replaces Shahbaz Nadeem?

A minor injury on the eve of the first Test delayed a likely debut for all-rounder Axar Patel, who was tipped to play the role Ravindra Jadeja normally plays. In walked Shahbaz Nadeem, who was playing his second Test, and failed to keep a check on the scoring provide the control India desired.

“But I think if Washy (Washington Sundar) and Shahbaz (Nadeem) would have bowled those economical spells, the pressure created would have been more. The situation would have been different. The opposition would have scored 80-90 runs less," Kohli had said after the match. Nadeem had four wickets in all but gave away 233 runs in 59 overs across two innings with an economy rate of close to 4 runs per over, including 9 no-balls.

A fully fit Axar Patel is the likely replacement for Nadeem in the second Test and a decision is expected to be taken after a late fitness Test. Axar however was seen having a bowl in the nets in Chennai on Thursday, when the BCCI posted a video on their Twitter handle.

The BCCI on Thursday evening released a statement saying, "Axar Patel has recovered completely and is now available for selection for the second Test in Chennai against England to be played from Saturday. The all-rounder had complained of pain in his left knee and was ruled out of the first Test."

Washington Sundar or Kuldeep Yadav?

The left-arm wrist spinner’s exclusion in the first Test raised a few eyebrows and it is highly likely that Kuldeep will be a part of the playing XI conversation to partner R Ashwin and either Axar or Nadeem.

While wrist-spin presents a very different challenge for batsmen as compared to finger spinners, Kuldeep’s exclusion in the first Test was mostly likely down to a lack of batting ability and the fact that India needed one spinner to take the ball away from the right-handed batsman, given Sundar and Ashwin are off spinners.

In the second Test, a fit again Axar once again brings the conversation back to the table and could well open up the way for Kuldeep, who along with Ashwin will bring the ball back into the right-hander. Axar meanwhile would take it away from the right hander and has a fair bit of ability with the bat too.

Rotate the Pacers?

While picking the spinning combination is one part of the selection headache, keeping the pace battery fit and firing through the year will be on the minds of the Indian think tank too.

Ishant Sharma has only just returned from a long layoff and Jasprit Bumrah had quite a bit to do in the first Test, while Mohammed Siraj sat it out. None of Mohammed Shami or Umesh Yadav are available for the Test series and T Natarajan has been relieved of domestic duties for the limited overs leg of England’s tour of India.

Siraj is not alien to the long spells on Indian conditions is in excellent form after a fantastic tour of Australia where he eventually led the attack in his third Test match in Brisbane. Another strength is his natural ability to swing the ball – after the way James Anderson found reverse swing very easily in the first Test, the Indian management is unlikely to ignore this factor.

Would it be harsh on Ishant? Probably. Does Bumrah need a rest? He had to sit out the Brisbane Test due to a groin injury while Ishant suffered consecutive injuries in 2020.

Bharat Arun will no doubt be keeping a very eye on the pacers as they countdown to the toss in Chennai on Saturday.

Predicted Playing XI for 2nd Test Chennai: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah.

Squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-Captain), KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur

Standby players: K S Bharat, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rahul Chahar, Priyank Panchal

Net Bowlers: Ankit Rajpoot, Avesh Khan, Sandeep Warrier, Krishnappa Gowtham, Saurabh Kumar

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