The Sardar Patel stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad, will host its first-ever Test match after undergoing radical renovation and now has an increased capacity of 1.10 lakh. The third Test between India and England, which is also a pink ball test or Day/Night Test, will make it tough for both Virat Kohli and Joe Root to make a final call on their final playing XI.
Both teams don’t expect that the Motera track will have too much of grass left by the time toss takes place at 2pm on Wednesday (February 24). But with second and third sessions taking place in twilight and under lights respectively with the pink ball, fast bowlers are expected to hold some sway even on dry tracks.
India will consider replacing Kuldeep Yadav with possibly Umesh Yadav to give them additional pace options with R Ashwin and left-arm spinner Axar Patel, in his second Test, manning the spin bowling responsibilities.
“I don’t think that is an accurate assessment (that bowl will not swing). The pink ball does tend to swing a lot more than the red ball. We experienced that when we played for the first time in 2019 (against Bangladesh),” Kohli said, in the pre-match press conference on Tuesday (February 23).
Kohli also rejected the assessment that England would have an edge if the pitch favours pacers. “…Not really bothered about what the strengths and weaknesses of the English team are. We have beaten them in their home as well, where the ball does way more and hold them out every time so we’re not really bothered with that. It’s just about playing well as a team,” he said.
“And yeah, there are many, many weaknesses in the opposition side as well, if you are keen to exploit them. If it’s a seamer friendly track for them it’s for us as well,” Indian skipper added.
Both teams go into the game with a lot of unknowns. The pink ball is known to aid the pacers but it remains to be seen how much it will help the spinners, which is considered India’s strength at home.
The England think tank has a selection headache both in bowling and batting departments. In bowling they have Jofra Archer fit and available along with veteran pace spearhead James Anderson, who is back in fray after workload management kept him out of the second Test. Stuart Broad is also in contention for a spot.
“It’s great to see him (Archer) back bowling again, we are excited. He is a world class performer and have got all the skills…It’s a very exciting place to be to have now a battery of fast bowlers to choose from,” Root said.
Senior wicketkeeper batsman Jonny Bairstow has also returned to the squad and it remains to be seen whether they can keep in-form Ben Foakes out or play both of them.
“We will get you the squad when we’re ready… That’s how we want to do things. We just want to make sure, we’re really sure on everything. When we’re absolutely ready we’ll give you the full squad together,” Root added.
The third Test between India and England will be Live Streamed on Disney+ Hotstar from 230pm onwards.
Squad: India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Md. Siraj, Umesh Yadav.
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
(with PTI inputs)