What’s working in favour of Sundar is that he can bat, averages a decent 31.29 in first-class cricket and has held his own in the domestic circuit over the last four years.
“Ashwin is in a bad shape. It’s a 40-60 for him, whether he can play. If he doesn’t, then there’s a chance India will go in with four pacers — Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini and T Natarajan,” say those tracking developments.
“If Ashwin is fit, even then, including Sundar in the eleven will make sense because he can bat and gives an option in the bowling department (by dropping one pacer).
“Kuldeep can’t bat and key at the Gabba will be putting runs on the board,” they add, contemplating the right replacement for an invaluable Ravindra Jadeja.
Ashwin, at the moment, is struggling with back spasms. Even if he’s fit to play — chances don’t appear very bright at the moment — the team management will have to consider what kind of workload he can take.
“He bowled almost 20 overs with a bad back and then batted a little more than two sessions, which is no mean feat. Sundar will be the apt replacement either way.” That is how the team management sees things at the moment.
On the pace-bowling front, Jasprit Bumrah — 50% fit right now — is being ruled out of the Test. The team won’t risk Bumrah for the fear that the tear can go worse, also given the series against England coming up at home.
Thakur and Natarajan will hit the nets at the Gabba on Wednesday with the big-picture of a four-pronged pace attack in mind.
“The contemplation was never between Thakur and Natarajan. It’s between Saini and Natarajan. The Gabba is going to have a bit of bounce and seam — so Saini comes across as the right choice. There has to be some amount of trust going into it. But if Ashwin doesn’t play, the option of four seamers is going to be considered,” say those in the know.
Thakur has played one Test match, even though he’s bowled less than two overs. While that may not matter much in terms of experience, his ability to generate pace, derive bounce and some movement are factors the team will look to derive value from.
That leaves the middle-order to fill, with Hanuma Vihari being ruled out of the game.
“Ideally, Mayank (Agarwal) would have fitted that slot. But he took a knock in the nets. He’s under observation. If Mayank is unavailable, Prithvi (Shaw) pads up. The rest of the line-up is more or less sorted, given the options,” sources say.
That would mean, a Test match XI on the following lines:
Openers: Rohit Sharma and Shubhman Gill
No. 3 & 4: Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane
No. 5: Rishabh Pant
No. 6: Mayank Agarwal / Prithvi Shaw
No. 7 / 8: R Ashwin and / or Washington Sundar
No. 9, 10, 11 / 12: Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan (if Ashwin is out)