WTC Final: India working on plan to fit Siraj in

WTC Final: India working on plan to fit Siraj in NEW DELHI: The Indian players have started training in Southampton. With eight days to go for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, the players are allowed to practice in groups of three and four before their soft quarantine period gets over.
They are just about warming up. When the entire team gets down to practice from Friday, it will be an audition of sorts for the fast bowlers. Mohammed Siraj will be at the centre of it. TOI understands that the team management is very eager to have Siraj in the playing XI when Virat Kohli walks out for the toss on June 18.
But it’s going to be a tough call. This is the first time since India’s tour of West Indies in August of 2019 that Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are all available for selection. The trio has been instrumental behind India’s success overseas in the last three years.
It’s learnt that the team management is trying to find a way to fit Siraj in the XI. It seems Ishant could be asked to rest if the management feels Siraj is hitting his marks well in training leading up to the game. This comes at a time when there are talks of the phase-out process being contemplated for Ishant.
The idea is to have a pacer who will be ready to bowl long spells without letting the intensity drop. Ishant has been playing this role for over a decade. The Indian team management would also want someone who could hit the deck and bowl bouncers relentlessly if the need arises to check the New Zealand batting.
Ishant’s experience of playing in 101 Test matches, 12 in England, goes in his favour. But the team management is also wary of Ishant’s aging body. He will turn 33 during the course of this tour. Ishant recovered from a severe ankle injury in January and made a comeback during the Test series against England at home in Feb-March. But there are concerns over Ishant’s ability to bowl long spells like he used to. Ishant could still do a good holding role but bowling a spree of bouncers could test him.
While the Indian team has struck a bat-ball balance by playing both Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in the XI, the team management may not want to go with a seamer short in this game. One may recall that Hardik Pandya played the role of the fourth seamer when India started picking 20 wickets regularly overseas in 2018.
The condition in Southampton is quite chilly and the New Zealand team will be comfortable playing four seamers. India may have been undone by Moeen Ali’s off-spin at this venue in the last two tours, but those Tests were played in late summer when the pitches had dried out. This is still early in the season and there will be a lot more for the seamers in the pitch.


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