Former opener Aakash Chopra has opined Team India have an uphill task in the fourth Test of the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the Gabba in Brisbane, considering the spate of injuries afflicting the squad.
Team India were already missing the services of regulars like Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav in the Sydney Test. Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari and Jasprit Bumrah have now joined the quartet on the sidelines, with doubts over the availability of Mayank Agarwal and Ravichandran Ashwin as well emerging ahead of the final Test of the four-match series.
In a video shared on his Facebook page, Aakash Chopra wondered if the Indian team has reached a stage where a positive result in Brisbane might just be a bridge too far while praising the Ajinkya Rahane-led outfit for the grit and determination they have shown thus far.
“The Indian team will have to make the most of what they have. But even a rubber band gets snapped if you keep pulling it. Have India also reached that stage is the unemotional question I am asking. The heart will say that this team has the will to fight, which is exemplary. You are filled with pride that our Indian team is not crumbling under pressure,” said Aakash Chopra.
The reputed commentator highlighted the spate of injuries in the Indian lineup to drive home his point.
“Now the problem for the Indian team is that Bumrah is also ruled out now, so is the case with Hanuma Vihari. Ravindra Jadeja is also 100% ruled out; Mayank Agarwal has got injured; so whom will you play? We are not sure about Ravichandran Ashwin’s back issue either.”
Aakash Chopra pointed out that Team India will be fielding a very inexperienced pace attack comprising Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur in Bumrah’s absence.
“Just think about the fast bowling department we are going to have – Navdeep Saini who has played one Test match, Mohammed Siraj who has played two, Shardul Thakur who bowled just a few deliveries in the one Test he played.”
Aakash Chopra added the bowling might become even more inexperienced if Kuldeep Yadav has to play as a spinner in case Ashwin does not recover in time for the Gabba Test.
“You cannot play five bowlers now because Jaddu is not there, so you will have to go with four bowlers. So, four bowlers despite being a weak bowling attack. Kuldeep might also play if Ashwin does not come out fit, who has played a total of 6 Test matches. That will make it a bowling attack with a total experience of 10 Test matches.”
Aakash Chopra observed that the issues are not restricted to the bowling department alone, with Hanuma Vihari not available and his likely replacement Mayank Agarwal’s availability also not guaranteed.
“Coming to the batting, you will have to play a batsman, with Jadeja not there. But with Vihari also not available, whom will you play? You might think of playing Mayank, Pant and Wriddhiman Saha, but you may not be able to play Mayank also. So, you will have to bring back Prithvi Shaw. Will they open with him or bring him down? His confidence is totally gone.”
Considering the above factors and the fact that Australia will be at full strength at their favourite hunting ground, Aakash Chopra said it will be an uphill task for Team India at the Gabba in Brisbane.
“This team is facing a mountain at the Gabba. Brisbane is a ground where Australia play well. Steve Smith has regained his form, and Marnus Labuschagne is playing well. Fast bowlers might be a little tired, but that pitch is very helpful.”
“India’s key players will have to come good” – Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra pointed out that the only way for Team India to wriggle out of the situation would be to have their premier batsmen – Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane – come up with substantial knocks. He said in this regard:
“For India to come out of this situation, their key players will have to come good. Rohit Sharma needs to score a big hundred. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane – if these people stand up and make a lot of runs – then the ‘weak’ bowling might also be able to dismiss the Aussies.”
Aakash Chopra concluded by saying it might turn to be a nightmare for Team India if these star players do not deliver the goods.
“But if these batsmen fail, then the story will turn bad, and from there we may probably not be able to survive and come out. I think this is going to be a litmus test because the opposition team is at full strength, but we have lot of voids, but we are still fighting.”
It certainly appears to be a tall ask for an injury-ravaged Team India against a full-strength Australia on the pacy and bouncy Gabba. The hosts have not lost a Test at the Gabba in more than three decades.
However, if the beleaguered visitors manage to put up another show of defiance and thwart or even beat Australia, it will be one of the greatest triumphs in Indian cricket history.
Published 13 Jan 2021, 17:24 IST