Former Indian opener-turned commentator Gautam Gambhir feels that the Virat Kohli-led unit should have gone with Mohammed Siraj in place of veteran pacer Ishant Sharma in the first Test against England at the M.A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
India decided to go in with the experienced duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma as two frontline seamers in Chennai, thereby benching Mohammed Siraj, who had picked up a five-wicket haul in his last outing
Gambhir said that he would have played Mohammed Siraj ahead of the Ishant Sharma purely because the latter is coming off a long layoff from red-ball cricket.
Ishant Sharma last played a long-form game against New Zealand a year ago, post which he has grappled with injuries. He got injured during the IPL and was subsequently ruled out of the Australia Test series.
He did play for Delhi in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy but Gambhir reckoned that bowling in red-ball cricket is a different kettle of fish as compared to bowling in T20s and that he would have had Ishant bowl a couple of long spells in the nets before blooding him back in the Test team.
”I would have played Mohammed Siraj over Ishant Sharma. And, the reason is that Ishant hasn’t played any red-ball cricket for a very long time. Straight after IPL, he got injured and then he has played only T20 cricket. And, that also when you are playing in Chennai where conditions can be very tough, the weather can take a toll on you and plus when you have to bowl 16-17 overs a day. Its not like you have got a third seamer in your ranks and you can just 12-13 overs in a day, you might have to bowl 16 overs a day,” Gautam Gambhir told ESPNCricinfo.
”Its always easy to bowl in T20 cricket but not in red-ball cricket where you have to make things happen. I would have definitely had Ishant bowl a couple of long spells in the nets, get his fitness up, and would have gone with Siraj. Because Siraj is coming off such a fabulous tour and he has bowled those long spells in Australia as well. I know its tough on Ishant but I would have gone with Ishant especially when you are going with two seamers,” he added.
That said, Ishant Sharma fared decently well on the opening day as he consistently bowled with discipline even as the wickets didn’t come his way. It was, in fact, the lack of penetration by the inexperienced spin-bowling duo of Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar that compounded the home side’s issues as skipper Joe Root and opener Dom Sibley made merry during their defiant 100-plus run-stand for the 3rd wicket.