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India's selection headaches: Rahul vs Karun, Kuldeep as extra spinner?
The Indian team management will have to choose between opener KL Rahul's red hot form or Karun Nair's skills when it decides on the playing XI for the one-off Test against Afghanistan, starting tomorrow.
The match gives the think-tank an opportunity to check on some of the key components in their combination before the series against England.
With all three specialist openers Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul reportedly fit (till Wednesday evening), head coach Ravi Shastri and skipper Ajinkya Rahane, along with two selectors (Devang Gandhi and Sarandeep Singh are here), will have their task cut out.
During the day's optional practice, senior openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay were rested while both Rahul and Karun sweated it out at the NCA nets.
All the bowlers (two frontline pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav along with spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja) save Kuldeep Yadav and Navdeep Saini were rested. Ditto for all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The selection committee led by MSK Prasad has followed a pattern of like for like replacement. By that logic, Karun Nair being a middle-order batsman is expected to play at No.4 in regular captain Virat Kohli's place.
Karun, who is going to lead India A in the four-day games in England, is being looked upon as Rohit Sharma's possible replacement. Rohit, after his latest failure in South Africa, perhaps won't find it easy to come back in longest format.
However, with Rahul in imperious form of late (at least in the IPL) and expected to play a key role in England, there is every chance of giving him the game time that he deserves.
Also checking out Rahul at No.3 and by pushing Pujara at No.4 will give team management a chance to create a back-up for the Saurashtra right-hander in case he flops in England.
There is a possibility of both (Karun and Rahul) playing but whether the team needs an extra batsman against a Test debutant nation is the bigger question.
The other big question is whether they will go with an extra spinner in chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who might play Tests in England.
Ashwin (311) and Jadeja (165), with a collective 476 wickets between them, are expected to play but going by the nature of the Chinnaswamy track, there will be turn on offer, which might prompt them to keep an additional spinner in the side.
"The track definitely looked more brownish than yesterday (on the drier side) and you never know how it will look tomorrow. One thing is for sure that there will be turn on offer," Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said today.
In that case, Hardik Pandya is likely to share the new ball with Ishant Sharma with Umesh Yadav sitting out.
However, Umesh has bowled some fantastic spells at the Chinnaswamy during the IPL and also has been one of India's better pacers in home conditions.
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