India’s newly-appointed Test vice-captain KL Rahul on Friday hinted India might go in with 5 bowlers for the first Test against South Africa, starting on Boxing Day at the Supersport Park in Centurion. Rahul said India have gone in with a 5-bowler approach in overseas conditions and it has worked well for them so far.
As Rahul pointed out, Virat Kohli has often stressed on playing 5 bowlers, especially in overseas conditions. In the World Test Championship final, India played 5 bowlers, including both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the XI. Throughout the 4-Test series against England in England, India benched Ashwin but still played 5 bowlers with Jadeja being the lone spinner.
However, with concerns over the batting form of quite a few batters, including captain Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteeshwar Pujara, India would have wanted to look at an extra batter. Without senior batter and Rohit Sharma, who has been injured, India will have KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order.
However, Rahul believes that playing 5 bowlers not just gives the cushion to attack and pick up 20 wickets but also helps in managing the workload of the bowlers, especially in overseas Tests.
India have picked 2 spinners in Jayant Yadav and R Ashwin in the absence of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel who were ruled out due to injury concerns. They have picked 6 pacers in the team, including all-rounder Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj.
“I think most teams have started playing five bowlers and every team wants to pick up 20 wickets and that’s the only way you can win a Test match. We have used this tactic and it has helped us in away games,” Rahul told the press during his address as vice-captain of the Test team.
“In every Test match that we have played away from India, it has helped us. So, workload also becomes slightly easier to manage that way with five bowlers and when you have that kind of quality, you might as well use them,” he added.
Playing 5 bowlers also adds to the selection headache for captain Virat Kohli and head coach Rahul Dravid as India might have the room to play only one of Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari.