Beleaguered India should play RP Singh in The Oval Test

RP Singh’s performance on the last tour of England should further his case as he supported Zaheer Khan brilliantly on the victorious campaign in 2007 © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya


A dead rubber awaits India at The Oval as the EnglandIndia contest moves back to London. However, the two teams wouldn’t approach it as an inconsequential match and would do everything to secure victory. Ruthless England would certainly go all out to make the scoreline 4-0 and prove to the world that they are worthy of the No 1 tag. India, on the other hand, would want to win the game not only as a consolation but also to restore some pride after being battered in the third Test at Edgbaston. The intensity from both the teams would make one seem that there is everything to play for at The Oval.


India have a lot of soul searching and introspection to do as they head to London. On this tour they have dealt blow after blow and lost their number one ranking as they crashed to a third straight defeat at Edgbaston. This England-India series was hyped up as a contest of the equals, battle for No 1, etc. But the fact remains that India haven’t lived up to their reputation and haven’t done justice to all the hype surrounding the contest.


The first and the most important thing on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s to-do list would be to lift the morale of the team. No team can be expected to be in high spirits when 0-3 down in a four-Test series. However they need to regain their hunger to bounce back and start a new journey towards redemption. That difficult journey has to start at The Oval. India needs to show more commitment on the field and a lot more application with the bat and ball. This can only happen when they go into the game with the right spirit and are motivated to deliver their best.


Secondly, India would have to make a few tough calls as far as the selection of the final 11 is concerned. They need to think a little out of the box and be brave enough in their decision making.


Suresh Raina should be dropped. He came into England on the back of good performances in the West Indies and carried that form into the tour game before the first Test. His hundred against Somerset and a 78 at Lord’s in the first Test gave one the impression that he was out there to prove the doubting Thomases wrong. Unfortunately for India, those fears have come to life as Raina struggled to cope with the English bowling in conditions suited for seam bowling.


Young Virat Kohli should replace Raina at the No 6 position. Kohli has done very well for India in One-Day Internationals and has shown a lot of promise in first-class cricket. This led to him being handed a Test cap in the West Indies. Sadly, he didn’t live up to the expectations as he had a tough time dealing with the bounce on quite a few occasions. However, this shouldn’t come in the way of his selection for the fourth Test. Kohli looks technically sound compared to Raina and has the talent to do well in the longest version. Raina has failed in four innings on a trot and India need to take a chance by playing Kohli.


The Indian team management should continue with the strategy of three fast bowlers and one spinner. The Zaheer-less fast bowling attack needs one change without any doubts. Left-arm Rudra Pratap Singh should come into the 11 as he will provide the attack with some variety while angling the ball across. His performance on the last tour of England should further his case as he supported Zaheer brilliantly on that victorious campaign.


The man RP should replace is Sreesanth, who, after a good start on the first morning in the second Test at Trent Bridge, has looked a shadow of that bowler. At Edgbaston he conceded 158 runs in his 36 overs without picking up a wicket. Sreesanth has the talent and has one of the most beautiful releases of the cricket ball at the delivery stride. The seam is so well balanced that batsmen facing him find it very difficult to deal with. But he is very erratic and does not bowl consistently the way he did on Day One at Trent Bridge. This hurt India dearly in the second innings at Trent Bridge, and at Edgbaston as he struggled to bowl in the right channels.


The only way Sreesanth should play in the fourth Test is if Praveen Kumar is ruled out. Praveen, India’s best bowler on the tour, suffered a thumb injury in the third Test and is doubtful for The Oval. India may have Munaf Patel in their squad, but off late he has looked more of a one-day bowler as he relies on the cutters, slower ones etc. He can get seam movement but India already has Ishant Sharma who can exploit seam movement at a faster pace. Thus, in the eventuality of Praveen missing out, Sreesanth should be persisted with because he is a swing bowler.


Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has his work cut out. He has to field the best possible combination in the fourth Test. As the saying goes, “Success doesn’t come to you; you go to it.” India need to start its march towards success all over again and The Oval should be the starting point!


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)