New Delhi [India]: Former Indian head coach and cricketer Ravi Shastri revealed his combined Indian Test XI selecting players from the two ICC World Test Championship finalists, India and Australia.
The WTC final is now a fortnight away. In the recent episode of the ICC Review, Shastri admitted that he found the task of building a combined playing XI difficult due to the sheer amount of world-class talent available on both sides.
But the India great stuck his neck out and settled on a final XI, in which surprisingly only four Indian players could make the cut.
While weighing out his captaincy options Shastri decided to go with Rohit Sharma instead of Steve Smith.
“I would give the captaincy to Rohit because he’s much more experienced than Pat,” Shastri said as quoted by ICC.
“He’s been around and he’s captained sides for a long time. If Steve Smith was captain of Australia, then maybe it’s a different story, but since it’s Pat Cummins and Rohit Sharma, Rohit wins it.”
“Plus, you know, as a captain, you’re a certainty in the XI so he opens the batting.”
With Rohit taking up the opening spot along with the captaincy role, Shastri was stuck in a dilemma.
The likes of Australian duo David Warner, Usman Khawaja and India’s emerging right-handed talented batter Shubman Gill are all in the mix.
Only England star Joe Root scored more runs than Khawaja during the 2021-23 World Test Championship cycle and Shastri said the Australian left-hander deserves to get the nod for the opening spot along with Rohit.
“It’s a tight one between Usman Khawaja and Shubman Gill,” Shastri admitted.
“Shubman is the rising young star and he’s a terrific player, but Usman Khawaja, just by current form and the number of runs he’s got over the last couple of years, I think he gets in there.”
Shastri said it was an easy decision to pick No.3, No.4 and No.5, with the No.1 ranked Test batter Marnus Labuschagne and experienced duo Virat Kohli and Steve Smith to fill these vital spots.
“Number three is a no-brainer as Marnus (Labuschagne) has been outstanding in Test match cricket. He averages close to 60, so he gets in there straight away,” Shastri said.
“Kohli at four for just what he’s done over the years and Smith at five for what he’s done over the years and the kind of quality they bring to the table.”
With the likes of talented young batter Cameron Green emerging through the ranks to become one of the hottest prospects in the cricket world, Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja earned the spot to bat at No.6 due to his ability to act as a second spinning option.
“At No.6, I get in Jadeja, because I believe he is one of the best all-rounders in the world,” Shastri added.
Australia keeper Alex Carey won the spot as wicket-keeper and the No.7 spot ahead of India’s KS Bharat.
Along with this Shastri admitted that he found it hard to leave out India veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and opt for Nathan Lyon as the front-line spinner in his XI.
“The reason why I picked Nathan Lyon ahead of Ashwin is because of Nathan’s overseas record,” Shastri said.
“Not just in Australia, but outside Australia and (Lyon is) probably stronger to bowl those overs in England if needed.
“So he comes in with Jadeja as the second spinner, with Jadeja more the all-rounder and Lyon the spinner.”
With the majority of the spots occupied, Shastri had to evaluate his pace bowling options which consist of the most lethal bowlers in the present scenario.
Shastri said the decisions on the pace attack were relatively easy to make, with experienced left-armer Mitchell Starc providing the variety alongside a pair of in-form right-armers.
“(Pat) Cummins, of course, for me, he’s a top-class operator and Mohammed Shami, he’s like vintage and he’s just getting better and better as we’re seeing in this IPL. And stronger. So he comes in there,” Shastri noted.
With the likes of Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara and Josh Hazlewood being left out of the final mix, Shastri reflected on how hard it was for him to make the final choices.
“It’s a hard choice (to settle on final XI) because Ashwin’s world-class, you’ve got Hazelwood world-class there and you’ve got (Cheteshwar) Pujara there who could be threatening. So it’s not easy,” Shastri concluded.
Ravi Shastri combined India-Australia Test XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Ravindra Jadeja, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mohammad Shami