To change or not to change beckons Virat Kohli ahead of Southampton Test
Virat Kohli is presented with a unique dilemma this time, with the entire XI having come up with worthy performances. @Getty

Virat Kohli has a penchant for changing his teams. One look at his past as India’s Test captain reveals a strange trend he has continued in his 38 Tests at the helm. Under Kohli, India have never played the same team in their next Test match, and the question looms again ahead of the fourth Test against England at Southampton on August 30.

After defeats in the first two Tests, India came back to win by 203 runs at Trent Bridge, with Kohli starring with the bat in both innings. The heavy margin of victory may still not be convincing enough for Kohli, who has not played the same team in any of his previous Test matches, even after victories.

After winning the third Test in Nottingham, Kohli overtook Sourav Ganguly to become the second most successful Indian Test captain with 22 victories, and in order to extend that number, Kohli is presented with a unique dilemma this time, with the entire XI having come up with worthy performances. If at all, Ravichandran Ashwin’s hip injury that he aggravated at Trent Bridge remains the only worry.

R Ashwin injury Trent Bridge
R Ashwin bowled just one over in the first innings of the Nottingham Test. @Getty

Ashwin bowled just one over in the first innings of the Nottingham Test, but bowled with some discomfort in the second. Ashwin’s allrounder status in the team also means India would have to replace him with a player of similar skill, making Ravindra Jadeja an obvious choice should Ashwin not reach full fitness.

The Ageas Bowl’s “friendlier” batting conditions may also see spin come into effect, which would have given India the ideal chance to play both their spinners, but Ashwin’s fitness remains a concern, while the other spinner in the team, Kuldeep Yadav, has returned after the BCCI announced two changes for the last two Test matches.

It worked to India’s advantage that Shikhar Dhawan regained some form with bright starts in both innings after he was included in place of Murali Vijay, whose woeful run with the bat resulted in him getting a pair in the second Test, and being replaced in the team after the third. Hanuma Vihari and Prithvi Shaw, the two uncapped players named in Yadav and Vijay’s place, are unlikely to find a place in the XI.

India’s victory at Trent Bridge also established Rishabh Pant as the obvious choice for wicketkeeper after his impressive debut that saw him make five dismissals in an innings. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s strong half-centuries have also worked in their favour, while Hardik Pandya had a memorable outing with his maiden five-wicket haul.

Kohli’s aggressive captaincy also sees him pick five bowlers on all occasions, which indicates the fast bowlers will retain their places, although he would like to flirt with the idea of unleashing his two premier spinners in tandem at some stage. However, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah also clocked in fine performances. Mohammed Shami bowled with a lot of spice as well – India’s pacers were significantly quicker than their English counterparts – but his inconsistency may bring in a desired change.

India’s massive touring party of 18 players does give them a few options to choose from, but Kohli may finally break his streak and surprise England this time, who themselves are in a selection quandary, especially after the failure of their opening batsmen.