Former Indian pacer Ajit Agarkar said he would prefer Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur as the team’s third and the fourth pacers respectively when India take on England in the rescheduled fifth and final Test beginning in Edgbaston on Friday. With Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami a certainty in the playing XI, India has other pace options in Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav to choose form.
“Siraj had a really good series last year when India played those four Tests (against England) and he is one of most improved bowlers around at the moment. So I don’t see any reason why Siraj would miss out,” Agarkar said during an interaction, organised by Sony Sports, the official broadcaster of the rescheduled test match.
Agarkar felt that Shardul’s ability with the bat could give him an edge in earning a place in the final eleven.
“Shardul offers a bit more with the bat at number eight and if there is likely help for the seamers, then he becomes even more effective. There is some swing and seam on offer,” Agarkar said.
“So, I would think that’s the way they go. Otherwise, the tail becomes too long, if at eight, you look at someone like Umesh (Yadav) or even Prasidh Krisna is part of the squad. But I think, Shardul will probably make (the cut) if they go with four seamers,” added the 44-year-old, who represented India in 26 Tests.
Agarkar also backed Siraj in saying that while the latter did have a forgettable performance in the IPL, that, however, would not affect his chances of being a part of the Indian side.
“I don’t think Siraj necessarily bowled badly and I don’t think you need to equate IPL to test cricket in England. So, you just see his form in test cricket in the last 12 months. Even when India played New Zealand at home, he (Siraj) was really good.
“And he can do the tough work for you. When the ball is little bit older can bowl long spells and bowl quick. I would be very surprised if he (Siraj) is not the third seamer,” reasoned Agarkar. The fifth and final Test is from last year’s incomplete series against England which got rescheduled due to outbreak of COVID-19 in the Indian camp.
Agarkar also praised the veteran batter Cheteshwar Pujara hit four centuries, including two double centuries for Sussex in Division Two County Championships to make a comeback in the Indian team. He reckoned that Pujara’s current form would be an advantage for India in the final test.
Pujara, who was left out of India’s home Test series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, amassed 720 runs in just 5 matches with an outstanding average of 120 for Sussex.
“It is a good thing for the Indian team that he (Pujara) was there and playing in those conditions. Also, he has the experience, 90-odd tests. No doubt it has come at the right time, also because it is one-off test and not many other Indian batters are playing in these conditions, so certainly it (Pujara played county) will be an advantage,” said Agarkar.
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