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25.08.2018  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

After winning the third test at Trent Bridge quite comfortably, Team India's confidence is sky-high. Now it is time to put in order a strategy for the next Test match at Ageas Bowl, Southampton.

More often than not, no soul would wish to change a winning combination. But in the 38 Tests, Kohli had led India as Captain, he had fielded 38 different playing XIs. All these changes could not be attributed to tactical necessity alone as some of them were due to injury.

Ashwin's untimely injury

One such problem Kohli is currently facing ahead of the fourth Test, is the fitness of his off-spinner R.Ashwin. Kohli may once again be compelled to change his playing XI as R. Ashwin is a doubtful starter for the fourth Test.

While there is a healthy gap of more than a week between the third and fourth Test, the Team Management still wouldn't want to aggravate Ashwin's injury by playing him in the fourth Test. Besides, Ashwin will be more needed for the fifth Test at the Oval, as the wicket there traditionally favours the spinners.

The curious cases of Shikhar Dhawan & Mohammed Shami

The Team Management may well be contemplating two more changes to the playing XI. One is to replace Shikhar Dhawan with the new star of Indian Cricket, Prithvi Shaw. Another is to replace Mohammed Shami with Umesh Yadav.

Dhawan is playing Test cricket by default at the moment. But he had played his part to perfection in the third Test by giving a solid start in both the innings. While fielding, Kohli had done him a great favour by not exposing him in the slips. This move had done both Dhawan and his team a world of good. Though a tempting option, the team management will resist making this change, at the present moment.

Both Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are a similar type of bowlers. Both are at times expensive and tend to spray a hefty number of balls on the leg side. Shami had taken just 8 wickets in the three matches that he played in this series. But Shami is more of a rhythm bowler and once he gets it right, he can run through any opposition. Shami is also a better bowler against left-handers. For this reason, Shami will retain his place in the team for the fourth Test, if not for anything, to maintain continuity.

Replacement options for Ashwin

The bowling options available for Team India to replace Ashwin are his spin twin Ravindra Jadeja and the fast bowler Umesh Yadav. If Umesh is preferred over Jadeja, the Indian bowling will turn into one dimensional with 5 fast bowlers and no spinner to back up with.

In such a scenario, Kohli may be compelled to under- bowl the last Test hero Hardik Pandya. The presence of Umesh Yadav in the playing XI will also elongate the batting tail.

On the other hand, the presence of Jadeja will definitely lend variety to the Indian bowling attack and concurrently strengthen the batting too.

If the team management decides to replace Ashwin with a middle-order batsman, then the options available are Karun Nair and the newcomer Hanuma Vihari. But they won't take that course. The Indians are already trailing in the series and they need all the bowling firepower to take 20 England wickets. Moreover, the form shown by the Indian batsmen in the previous Test was quite heartening.

The predicament in replacing an all-rounder like Ashwin with a specialist batsman like Karun Nair is that any cheap dismissal of such additional specialist batsman will upset the overall tactics of the team.

Jadeja for Ashwin

Jadeja will be the fitting replacement for Ashwin. He can also contribute with the bat as well on the field. Kohli knows what Jadeja can bring to the table. With the likely increase in the number of right-hand batsmen in the England batting line up with the inclusion of James Vince, Jadeja can be more effective as a slow left-arm orthodox bowler. Not to forget the fact that Jadeja, the bowler, is ranked at No 3 in ICC Test rankings. He is the live wire in the field and a competent bat.

Jadeja is at present short of match practice. Based on past history, India may well be tempted to play two spinners in the fifth and final Test match at the Oval. In such a scenario, Jadeja will be benefitted by the match practice he gains from the Fourth Test at Ageas Bowl, simultaneously contributing to the team's cause.

Barring any last minute niggle, India will go into the fourth Test with a solitary change, Jadeja in place of Ashwin. This will be more or less a like-for-like substitution.