Team India have a nine-day gap between the end of the 2nd Test match and the start of the 3rd and final Test at The Oval. The 3rd Test commences 9 August.
In between, from the 3rd to the 5th of August, India plays Sri Lanka ‘A’ at Leicester! This is a bit wierd! I am not aware of a touring team playing another touring team — and that too an ‘A’ team — in a 3-day practice match! Could well be a first?
India have a few questions to answer, notably:
– Whether Sree Santh plays at The Oval, and if he does, what his mental state is.
– Whether Yuvraj plays at The Oval.
Sri Lanka ‘A’ have some decent players in its ranks. Its one-down player, Michael Vandort, has already played 9 Tests for Sri Lanka (including those against Bangladesh recently) for an impressive average of 52.91 including 3 centuries. Thilan Samaraveera, the ‘A’ Team captain, has played 39 Tests for an average of 41.53. He has also snared 14 Test wickets with his off-spin bowling. Kaushal Lokuarachchi is said to be a useful all-rounder. He bowls legspin, bats well and has played in 4 Tests and 19 ODIs. Dammika Prasad and Akalanka Ganegama are useful fast-medium bowlers who are rated quite highly. They have both played a handful of ODIs. They will be able to offer a good practice for the Indians ahead of The Oval.
I believe India needs to play the following in their XI for this game (in batting order):
Rahul Dravid (c)
MS Dhoni (wk)
Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, R. P. Singh and Sachin Tendulkar should earn a break and get some R&R.
Despite the win in I do believe India needs to sort out the Yuvraj Singh question. I do feel that the process of future-building needs to commence now — and not in the future. The Fab Four will not be around for ever. Yuvraj Singh needs to be blooded and the time is now.
Despite Laxman’s fighting 50 in the 2nd Test and despite Dhoni’s match-saving innings at The Lords’ I believe one of them need to make way for Yuvraj Singh for The Oval game. Apart from being an opportunity to play a future middle-order bat for India, Yuvraj Singh lends greater agility to the fielding and is also able to bowl a containing line of left-arm spin — if needed. One of the drawbacks in Team India in the 2nd Test was that there was virtually no one who could bowl an Ashley-Giles-type or even a Monty-Panesar-type of containing-line at one end. Yuvraj Singh may give India that option.
Moreover, if Sree Santh appears to be still undercooked in the Sri Lanka ‘A’ game, I feel he should make way for either Ranadeb Bose, Ishant Sharma or Romesh Powar. The Oval does afford spin on days 3 and 4 and so, Powar would be a tempting option to go with. It depends, however, on how Bose, Sharma and Powar bowl in the tour game.