India's Test skipper Virat Kohli has been firm in stating that there is a very high chance of India adopting the five-bowler strategy in Sri Lanka. This is definitely something novel in Indian cricket since the past teams have stuck to four bowlers strategy, with the part-timers chipping in with a number of overs to give the main bowlers a break. However, Kohli definitely does not seem to subscribe to the theory, and is highly likely to try out something that has not been tested much in Indian cricket over the years. We look at the options available before Team India in case they decide to go in with five bowlers.
5 batsmen, wicket-keeper, 3 pacers and 2 spinners: With Rohit Sharma all set to bat at number three, Murali Vijay will either open the batting with Shikhar Dhawan or Lokesh Rahul. According to Kohli, whoever does well in the practice game will grab that spot. After, Rohit at number three, Kohli would come in at number four and Ajinkya Rahane at number five. Although, it may seem too high, Wriddhiman will have to bat at six. Among the bowlers, India have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron. In case, India decide to play three pacers one will have to sit out.
The spin options for India include the experienced trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra. In the event of playing two spinners, the leggie Mishra will most likely miss out.
5 batsmen, wicket-keeper, two pacers and three spinners: There may not be a great possibility of this happening, but if there is one place where India can think of playing three spinners, it is definitely here. In such a scenario, Ashwin, Harbhajan and Mishra will all come into the picture. But, India will then have to make the tough decision of leaving out two of Kumar, Ishant, Varun and Yadav.
Alternate choices: Although Rohit seems set to bat at number three, India shouldn't completely rule out playing six batsmen. In that case, the unlucky Cheteshwar Pujara would come into the equation. If he plays, he will have to bat at number three, which means Rohit will have to move down back to number six. Alternately, India can also opt for Rahul, and fit him in either at three or six.
The risk with the 5 batsmen approach: On one hand, the five batsmen ploy looks like a step in the positive direction. At the same time, India must remember the fact that they do not have a genuine all-rounder. As such, the team could be under immense pressure in case they lose early wickets. Remember, Saha is yet to establish himself, and the tail, if exposed to good bowling, could be put under pressure.
-- By A Cricket Analyst