The third Test between India and England begins in Ahmedabad’s Sardar Patel Stadium (Motera) from tomorrow.
It’s a moment brimming with cricketing significance.
To start with, this will be the first international match at Motera’s refurbished stadium which now boasts of having the largest capacity amongst all cricket stadiums in the world.
This will also be a day-night Test and only India’s second ever pink ball Test on home soil.
The match will also be a milestone for Ishant Sharma who will complete a century of Test matches – a remarkable feat considering the physical and mental demands of modern day cricket.
For 14 years, Ishant has been a vital part of India’s pace bowling contingent and instead of fading away with time, has matured with age, like wine and produced match-winning spells since 2018.
Even in Chennai where the wicket provided no assistance, he bowled immaculately, completing 300 wickets.
In the process, Ishant has bridged the gap between potential and performance.
Though statistics never reveal the entire story, he has several records to his name.
In 2011, he became the fifth youngest player to take 100 Test wickets. Against South Africa in 2013, Ishant Sharma became the fifth quickest Indian to grab 100 ODI wickets.
Umesh fit but may not play
His erstwhile bowling partner, Umesh Yadav was declared fit to be a part of India’s squad for the remaining two Tests against England.
Umesh was unlucky to miss out on the final two Tests in Australia due to an injury after an impressive performance in the MCG Test which India had won by 8 wickets.
However, it’s unlikely that Umesh will be part of the playing eleven.
Traditionally, the Motera pitch has assisted spin but the pink ball dictates that India go in with 3 seam bowlers.
Bumrah is expected to be back and it is going to be a toss up between Yadav, Hardik Pandya and the lion-hearted Siraj.
On the batting front, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill are expected to retain their places. Gill has recovered from a knock he got in the 2nd Test and will be looking to score his maiden century.
Both Pujara and Kohli will be keen to post a big hundred. Rahane scored an important half century in the last Test but the team will be looking at him to be more consistent.
Rishabh Pant has been a game-changer with the bat and the big plus is that he put in a sterling display as a wicket-keeper in the last Test.
Hardik Pandya has been bowling in the nets with the pink ball for a while. His exploits as an all-rounder make him an ideal asset, not just in terms of batting but also, in terms of a back-up to the pace bowlers.
India’s hero with bat and ball in Chennai, Ashwin will be brimming with confidence. This will also rub off well on Axar Patel who claimed a fiver on his debut and will look to generate sharp bounce off the Motera wicket.
It promises to be a great match but India might have a slight edge.