“Kuldeep gives you a certain X-factor with his bowling,” Rohit said. “You’ve seen how well he’s been bowling of late. Especially the wicket if it has bounce, or if it doesn’t have bounce, Kuldeep becomes a factor in those types of conditions as well because he has got superb variations.
“He is also a much more mature bowler now. He has not played a lot of Test cricket in India because of [R] Ashwin and [Ravindra] Jadeja clearly. But that is what happens. Like with our middle order, all of us got an opportunity really late. But that’s the reality of it. You can’t hide from it. But Kuldeep being the bowler he is now, from what he was a couple of years back, he is much more improved and he is a very tempting option without a doubt.”
“Axar with his all-round ability, giving us that batting depth, the consistency that he has shown playing in these conditions in Test cricket also is an important factor for us,” Rohit said. “It was a bit of a headache for us to decide who it was going to be. I’m not going to say who it is but it was a challenge for us to make that decision. We know we’ve got quality around our spin-bowling department, which is a good sign. When you’ve got quality around your team, when there’s a headache to make your playing XI, that’s a good sign.”
Axar’s prized weapon is the ball that doesn’t turn. Exactly half of his 50 Test wickets are either bowled or lbw, and most of them involve the left-arm spinner beating the right-hander on the inside edge. The reason he kept doing that is because he was also getting the odd ball to turn. Against Australia, he seemed to have lost that a little bit. But now, after recovering from a quadriceps injury that forced him out of the ODI World Cup, Axar looks like he’s getting back to his old self. The left-arm spinner comes into these Tests having picked up ten wickets in seven T20Is against Australia and Afghanistan played over the last two months.
The Hyderabad pitch will turn. Rohit, when asked about it in the pre-match press conference where he was happy to talk at length about various other topics – like the health of Test cricket, the value of blooding new players in, and the strength of his side in home conditions – gave a curt answer: “Looks good”.