India face a selection conundrum ahead of the second and final Test against New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. Indian national cricket team is known for its stability. Shake-ups are rare. But with the series on the line and two senior batters -- Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane -- struggling, India think-tank finds itself in a tricky position. (More Cricket News)
On the eve of the match, Virat Kohli on Thursday tried to address the elephant in the room. "You have to obviously understand the situation of where the team is placed," the skipper said. "You have to understand where individuals stand at certain stages during the course of a long season, so you have to obviously communicate well."
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Kohli is returning to lead the team after skipping the three-match T20I series and the first Test in Kanpur, which ended in a thrilling yet disappointing draw for India. The famed Indian spin attack failed the break the last-wicket stand at Green Park and the finalists from the inaugural edition of the ICC World Test Championship shared the honours.
In Kohli's absence, Rahane led the side with Shreyas Iyer filling in for the absent skipper in the middle order. Iyer, who was making his Test bow, impressed everyone with 105 and 65. And he now seems a sure starter for the Mumbai Test. So, who gets the boot?
Kohli, while hinting at the imminent change, however, said that "it is not a difficult thing to" tweak the combination "when there is collective trust and belief."
"You have to speak to the individuals and approach them in a way, which explain things to them properly and mostly it's been combination based whenever we have done changes in the past... and we have explained to individuals and they have understood our mindset behind going in with a certain combination," he added.
In the build-up to the match, former players and experts have opined that India should drop Mayank Agarwal and elevate Wriddhiman Saha to share the opening burden with Shubman Gill as both Pujara and Rahane will be key players for India when they tour South Africa. The argument is, India shouldn't fiddle around with the team ahead of an important tour.
Saha, who filled in for rested Rishabh Pant in the first Test, missed the final day's action due to a neck niggle. He was replaced by KS Bharat behind the wickets. But the seasoned wicketkeeper is sure to start the match in Mumbai.
Kohli confirmed that Saha has fully recovered.
"As of now, Saha is fit. He has recovered from his neck spasm and is absolutely fine now," Kohli said.
The skipper also hinted that India may field an extra pacer as Mumbai continues to get rain. India went with five bowlers -- three spinners (Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin) and two pacers (Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav) in Kanpur.
"There is a weather change and we have to keep that into account and pick the combination accordingly... At the end of the day, you cannot assume weather conditions will remain like this over the five days," Kohli added. "So, we need to see what bowling combination should be picked that can tackle in different conditions. If we reach a common understanding and if everyone agrees, we go in with that combination."
With that, here's India's predicted playing XI for Mumbai Test: Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.