With Ravindra Jadeja injured, India has two spinners to choose from for the Adelaide Test.
Generally, in Australia, teams prefer just one spinner, unless the match is in Sydney or, on some occasions, Melbourne.
With Vihari batting at six, India has a part-time spinner and need to choose between Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav for the lead spinner role.
As the first Test is a pink-ball match, and with neither playing the second warm-up game, there are considerations of playing neither for the first Test.
With the Pink ball likely to bring in a seaming track, a spin bowler’s use may be reduced.
Barring Nathan Lyon, spinners have also not done a great job with the pink ball in Australia.
However, playing four pacers has not helped India historically, and they may not yet be looking at that option.
If the discussion about playing Ashwin or Kuldeep Yadav comes in, there may be a few considerations to look into.
Let us now look at the two options separately:
Ravichandran Ashwin is the most experienced spinner in India’s squad at the moment.
He remains India’s premier Test spinner and has done an excellent job over the last few years.
With 365 wickets, Ashwin has some substantial numbers to prove his ability as a bowler.
He has been considered ineffective outside the subcontinent in the past, but with some work done, he is now a decent wicket-taking bowler outside India.
He is usually seen as a competitor to Nathan Lyon for the best spinner’s title in the World and would relish the opportunity to go up against Lyon again.
He has been to Australia a few times, and his experience will be useful on the bouncy surfaces.
Over the last few seasons, Ashwin has also been given the first crack as a lead spinner in the side.
Playing Ashwin will also allow the batting to look more muscular.
Ashwin is a decent batsman, and playing him will allow the line-up to go deeper.
His fitness and the overseas record may be something that could go against him in a battle for the lone spinner role.
Though Ashwin is improving as an overseas bowler, questions remain about his effectiveness and aggression outside India.
He is a smart bowler, but the lack of wickets may affect him.
He managed to put some doubts to rest, with good spells in Adelaide, last series, and Birmingham when India toured England.
He has shown his improvement as an overseas spinner, but past numbers still raise questions about his ability.
His fitness is another issue to look into.
Throughout the IPL, Ashwin was never at full fitness and also picked up an injury earlier.
The injury may have healed by now, but questions regarding his fitness are yet to be answered.
On the past overseas tours, Ashwin injured himself and lost his effectiveness towards the end of the series.
He played just one Test against Australia in 2018, and injury kept him out of the remaining three.
When India toured England, Ashwin played four of the five Tests but injured himself mid-way and couldn’t bowl with the same spark.
India will be hoping he manages to stay fit as they are already missing Ravindra Jadeja, who is out with a couple of injuries.
Kuldeep Yadav is the second spinner on the side and comes in with lots of talent.
He is a part of a rare breed of bowlers, with his left-arm chinaman style.
Along with his unique bowling style, Kuldeep Yadav knows how to use the bounce on surfaces well and has good numbers in his only Test in Australia.
Playing in Sydney during 2019, Kuldeep Yadav took five wickets in the first innings and announced himself on Australian soil.
He is a very aggressive bowler and can be handy when in form.
Kuldeep Yadav has never played as a lone spinner, which may go against him in the debate.
He has shown promise in his short career, but using him as a lead spinner may not be the first thing on India’s mind.
Since the Sydney game, he hasn’t played any Test Cricket and is making a come back for this series.
Relatively new, Kuldeep Yadav can be a potential X-factor in the side.
There isn’t much on Kuldeep Yadav as a Test bowler, and he could be India’s surprise element.
His fitness is also not in doubt, as Kuldeep may be able to bowl long spells.
A few things that go against Yadav are his economy rate and batting ability.
Kuldeep Yadav is a decent lower-order batsman at the domestic level but may not be as good as his competitor.
His style of bowling may also result in some easy runs if the Australians manage to pick him.
In the past, he has proved to be an expensive bowler but can compensate with wickets on most occasions.
Both spinners took part in the first tour game.
There wasn’t much to conclude in the tour game as both were economical.
A small separation could be the wickets.
Kuldeep Yadav went wicketless, while Ashwin picked up two wickets.
Though that isn’t much to decide on, Ashwin may still get the first Test’s nod.
As Kuldeep Yadav is yet to play as the lone spinner, the selectors may have wished for more from him to provide some confidence.
With wickets not coming, they may go with Ashwin, who has experience on his side.
However, the second tour game suggests India may also consider playing only pacers for the Adelaide Test.
As it is a day-night game, the pacers may enjoy the conditions more, prompting India to go with an all-pace attack.
There are, however, reasons as to why Ashwin or Kuldeep didn’t feature in the warm-up game but could feature in the first Test.
India may have wanted to give the pacers more opportunities to decide who joins the side as the third pacer.
After the first warm-up, India may have felt content and decided who plays and who sits out.
Another reason could be to prevent Ashwin from injury, as he has not looked his fittest throughout the IPL.
There are several theories, and it looks like Ashwin may make the final cut.
However, India has surprised everyone in the past, and they may do so this time with Kuldeep’s inclusion.
With few days left for the Test, the lead-up may give a better picture of who plays and who doesn’t.