India’s ’bench strength’ gives Virat Kohli pleasant headache for Newlands decider
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Cape Town - India captain Virat Kohli has confirmed the visitors will make at least two changes to their line-up for the series-deciding final Test against the Proteas at Newlands on Tuesday.
Kohli has recovered from the back spasm that ruled him out of the seven-wicket defeat at the Wanderers last week and will return to the line-up. The charismatic Indian skipper has shown no discomfort whilst batting in the nets during the build-up to the third and final Test.
Fast bowler Mohammed Siraj has unfortunately not shown similar progress after sustaining a hamstring injury during South Africa's first innings at the Bullring.
"I am absolutely fit," Kohli told reporters at a virtual press conference on Monday.
"Siraj is obviously recovering from the niggle he had in the last game and at present I don't think he is match ready to take the field in the third Test, so obviously we cannot risk a guy that is not 100 percent as a fast bowler because we know important a little niggle in terms of extending into an injury for the team. Siraj is therefore not up to the mark, but I am absolutely fit."
It is expected that Kohli will replace Hanuma Vihari in the starting XI, despite the latter's unbeaten 40 during India's second innings.
The skipper, though, was playing his cards close to his chest in terms of Siraj's replacement. India have a bevy of fast bowling riches at their disposal with 105-Test veteran Ishant Sharma and the 51-cap Umesh Yadav waiting to be unleashed from the sheds.
Although Sharma's imposing 6ft 5inches frame allows him to extract extra bounce from the surface, Yadav's extra, skiddy pace and ability to reverse the old ball could give him the edge.
"We have yet to sit down myself, vice captain and coach to decide what we want to do about the replacement. I say that because of our bench strength and it is difficult for us to decide who will play because everyone is at the top of their game both bowling and batting and these things become a point of discussion and contention," Kohli said.
"And you have to have a healthy discussion around things like and agree that everyone feels balanced about it. We are still to have that discussion but I would rather be in this position where it's about who is going to play than having options that might affect our balance and stuff like that."
The series is tied up at 1-1 with the series-deciding Test being played at a venue that India have not won at before in five previous attempts dating back to 1993.
Likely India team for Newlands
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shardul Thakur, Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav/Ishant Sharma.