After an anti-climactic end to the first Test in Kanpur, where New Zealand escaped with a creditable draw by defying the India spinners, the home team, under its regular captain, could go for a rejig in the combination. Also, at the Wankhede, the host may get only four days to enforce a positive result due to heavy rains that could be a dampener on Day One.
While the spotlight is on Ajinkya Rahane for the wrong reasons after 12 successive failures in 2021, he is unlikely to be dropped because of lack of form, that too on his home turf. Another cause of concern is No.3 batter Cheteshwar Pujara, who has not been at his best in the recent past.
With a century and a fifty on debut to boast of, middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer is expected to retain his place in the playing eleven. So, opener Mayank Agarwal could be dropped from the line-up to make way for the incoming Kohli while Shubman Gill is set to continue.
The question then arises on who will open alongside Gill. It has to be either Pujara or wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat. Bharat replacing regular gloveman Wriddhiman Saha, who had suffered from stiff neck, could actually save the team management from taking tough calls for the Test match.
The Kane Williamson-led New Zealand missed Neil Wagner in Kanpur, where his presence could have spelt more trouble for India. The rain and a pitch devoid of sunlight could mean that both pacers and spinners would be in equation.
Kohli hints at extra pacer
India captain Virat Kohli indicated that the host may field an extra pacer to exploit the likely change in conditions if persistent rainfall continues. “There is a weather change and we have to take that into account and pick the combination accordingly,” Kohli said. “At the end of the day, you cannot assume weather conditions will remain like this over the five days. So, we need to see what bowling combination should be picked.”
The captain didn’t give any definitive answer about Ajinkya Rahane’s place in the side, but gave an elaborate reply to a slightly tweaked question on how one communicates with players who are dropped.