'It was a tough decision' - Rohit Sharma reveals why India picked Axar Patel ahead of Kuldeep Yadav for 1st Test against England
The first Test match between India and England in Hyderabad has set the stage for a trial by spin. The visiting captain, Ben Stokes, surprised many by opting for a spin-heavy Playing XI, including three spinners and part-timer Joe Root, with Mark Wood as the sole pacer. Meanwhile, Indian captain Rohit Sharma announced a formidable spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Axar Patel during the toss, reflecting a deliberate strategy against the English lineup.
The selection debate for the Indian squad was particularly intense regarding the third spinner's spot, with Axar Patel ultimately getting the nod over Kuldeep Yadav. Despite Kuldeep's potential suitability for the Hyderabad pitch, the team management leaned towards Axar, valuing his impressive record in home Tests and his additional batting ability.
Leaving Kuldeep Yadav Out wasn't easy: Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma acknowledged the challenging decision-making process, stating, “It was a tough one (to leave out Kuldeep Yadav), and we thought a lot about it. Axar, whenever he has played, he has done well and bats really well in these conditions. He gives his batting depth as well. He got some really good score the last time we played against Australia. Probably the reason we went with Axar.”
The inclusion of Axar Patel was also supported by cricketing legend Anil Kumble, who recognized the depth Axar brings to the team, not just with his spin but also with his batting capabilities. Kumble highlighted the absence of veteran batsman Virat Kohli as a factor that added to the complexity of the decision. Kohli's withdrawal from the first two Tests for personal reasons has left a noticeable gap in the batting lineup, emphasizing the need for additional depth.
Kumble further analyzed the pitch conditions and Axar's suitability, stating, “This surface is more suitable to Kuldeep Yadav, it's not a grand turner. But it will certainly spin. Axar gives you a bit of a batting depth, and also because of his success against England. He bowls wicket-to-wicket. One can turn, one can go straight.”