Padikkal over Sarfaraz? Ex-Australian spinner explains why India could prefer Karnataka opener for 3rd Test

Anticipation surrounds the composition of India’s cricket team as it braces for the third Test against England in Rajkot, with as many as four potential changes in the lineup. Injuries and a quest for the optimum team balance, along with returns from absence and dips in form, have all contributed to this conjecture. Among the speculated alterations is the middle-order spot, left vacant after the exclusion of Shreyas Iyer and compounded by the unavailability of pivotal players such as Virat Kohli and KL Rahul. This begs the pivotal question: which cricketer will seize this golden opportunity?

While speculations are rife that Sarfaraz Khan, who has long been on the fringes, might finally don the Test cap, Brad Hogg, the ex-Australian spinner, has thrown his weight behind the newly arrived left-handed batter, Devdutt Padikkal. Joining the squad on the precipice of the Rajkot showdown as a last-moment inclusion following Rahul’s elimination from the third Test, Padikkal has quickly become a topic of intense debate.

Expressing his views on his YouTube channel, Hogg reasoned that Padikkal, with his top-order batting credentials and the advantage of being a left-hander, might just eclipse Sarfaraz in the selection hierarchy. “I think they will go for Padikkal,” said Hogg, reflecting on the Karnataka opener’s commendable century against Tamil Nadu recently. He highlighted the preference Coach Rahul Dravid holds for versatile top-order batters, emphasizing Padikkal’s ability to adapt to multiple batting positions.

However, it’s Sarfaraz’s perceived vulnerability to pace bowling that Hogg believes could tip the scales in Padikkal’s favor. Acknowledging the challenges faced by Sarfaraz, particularly showcased in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Hogg suggested the only way Sarfaraz could outdo Padikkal is if he has shown significant improvement. “If he has been working on it, and [if] Rahul Dravid has been having him in the nets facing [Jasprit] Bumrah and handling him well then I would go with Sarfaraz Khan,” Hogg remarked, conceding that his analysis might seem overly critical of Sarfaraz.

Praising Padikkal further, Hogg noted, “But what I have seen outside of the little bubble, I will go with Padikkal. I know I have been harsh on Sarfaraz Khan there, but I love what Padikkal got to offer with a left-hander in that line-up.”

The selection conundrum does not end with the middle-order muddle. The training sessions and warm-up drills suggest that Sarfaraz is not the only cricketer in the fray for a Test debut. Dhruv Jurel, a proficient wicketkeeper-batter, looks poised to make his presence felt in the Test arena.

This period of transitions within the Indian cricket team comes amidst personal milestones and sporting trivia that enrich the narrative tapestry of cricket. For instance, Australia’s captain Pat Cummins recently found a light-hearted exchange on social media becoming a news snippet when an Indian fan professed love for Cummins’ wife in a Valentine’s Day post, to which Cummins responded sportingly. On another celebratory note, wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey tied a List A world record with a remarkable performance behind the stumps.

In a tribute to its longstanding contributor, the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium changed its moniker to honor Niranjan Shah, reflecting the constant evolution and homage within the game’s community.

As the decisive Test in Rajkot looms, the spotlight steadily fixes on Team India’s potential lineup. Will it be the underdog Sarfaraz Khan or the stylish left-handed Devdutt Padikkal who secures their place in the elusive middle-order? Only time will reveal the answer as fans eagerly await the outcome of the selection deliberations.

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