There's temptation to play three spinners but you never know with Nagpur pitch, says KL Rahul
India's Test vice-captain KL Rahul feels it's never easy to predict the nature of a track but there is a 'temptation' to play three spinners in the first Test against Australia, beginning in Nagpur on Thursday.
With less than 48 hours left for the Border Gavaskar Trophy to begin, Rahul didn't provide any definitive answers about three key slots in the team -- the wicketkeeper, the third spinner and the number five in the batting order.
Asked if Shubman Gill will bat in the middle-order, Rahul said: “We still haven't decided on the final XI. It's going to be a tough decision to make. There are guys who have performed exceedingly well and there are a few spots open so there are a few discussions going on and the players are being spoken to."
The VCA track is expected to assist spinners from day one itself but Rahul doesn't want to be a soothsayer when it comes to reading the 22-yard strip.
“Yes, we did see it (the pitch), but it's still too early to really know what the pitch is going to do. We need to come here on the day of the match to know how it's really going to play," he told reporters.
"We can only look at it and assume it's going to play a certain way, but you never know with pitches. Yes, there is the temptation to play three spinners because we're playing in India. We'll take that call on the day of the game or the day before the game,” the stylish right-hander said.
With skipper Rohit Sharma back in the mix, Rahul was asked if he would like to bat in the middle-order where he had started his Test career back in 2014.
“If it arises, then I'm more than happy to do that. Whatever little cricket I've played for the country, I've always done that.
“Whatever the team has asked me to do, I try and prepare that way and try and do my best for the team, and if that is something that the team wants me to do here, I'll be more than happy to do it,” Rahul said, although it is unlikely that he would come down the order.
So does he find it unique that there is no straightforward choice for picking the playing eleven this time around?
“I don't know if it has happened before but, yes, this time is is going to be tough. Tough decision to select an eleven. All the 15 guys in the side are top quality, and that's why they're here. Anyone of them on any given day can be a match winner..."
"The playing XI, we always try and make a decision based on what's best for the team and for that particular Test match. We have done that over the last two years," that was his response to a PTI query.
Rahul didn't forget to remind the media that he is still pretty sour about the backlash that he got for dropping Kuldeep Yadav for the second Test against Bangladesh after his match-winning performance in the series opener.
“There have been questions about why a certain player has played… even in Bangladesh, I remember, Kuldeep (Yadav) got the man of the match and did not play the next Test.
“Obviously, the only reason, or the only thinking, behind such decisions is which player fits the role for that particular condition.
“You said, I have played for 10 years, but even if I have played for 20-30 years, and even after retirement, there is nobody who can look at the pitch and say accurately that ‘this is how it is going to play'."
"It's really based on some experience and a little bit of history of that place. Even in this series, that's something we will continue to do,” he said.
Whether it is Suryakumar Yadav or Kuldeep Yadav, whoever gets dropped needs to take that on chin.
“Everyone is very clear about why they're playing, why they aren't playing, their roles in the team. That's a good thing, and the atmosphere in the team is very good.”
Reverse swing will play a huge role
Rahul feels with the quality in the Australian bowling line-up, reverse swing in the dry and abrasive conditions can play a huge role.
“It always plays a huge role in India. We have seen that historically as well. Any team that has quality fast bowlers who can exploit reverse swing will be dangerous on pitches like these. That's something that we have tried to prepare for over the last week, 10 days.
“We all know the Australian team has always produced high-quality fast bowlers, and we know the threat they can pose. That's the beauty of playing against Australia, that's what excites you and something we are kicked about.” With David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Alex Carey and Matt Renshaw in the mix, the southpaw heavy Aussie line-up may just given an advantage to the home team.
“I think it will help our bowlers a little bit. If there are two left-handers together, and left-handers are coming in to bat, back-to-back, that will only mean that the bowlers get time to settle into a certain line and length."
“That also is a very unique thing. I don't think any other team has that many left-handers..."