These are one of the major questions that India has faced since announcing its squad for the WTC final. If you had been at the Oval on Sunday, two days before what was often called the final Test, you would have been hard pressed to indicate which combination India were leaning towards.
The two young, good friends, both in their 20s, were in focus during India’s first training session in London after almost a week in Arundel, where the team assembled in batches, with players moving separately during the conclusion of the IPL. Had joined on time.
Kishan, who is yet to make his Test debut, had two long batting sessions that lasted about three-quarters of an hour in total, but he did not practice his keeping. He suffered a potential scare towards the end of his second stint when he was hit on his left arm trying to push a ball from left-arm fast bowler Aniket Chaudhary, one of India’s back-up bowlers. Kishan immediately dropped his bat and went out to apply ice and wrap his forearm.
It did not appear to be a serious injury, as Kishan was comfortably holding two bats in his injured hand after training. A few hours later he and Gill went for a quick inspection of what could potentially have been the match pitch.
Bharat, Kishan’s direct rival, started the training session with wicketkeeping practice on one of the practice strips at the main intersection and then returned to bat. Bharat replaced Pant for the four-Test home series against Australia in February–March and showed signs of being a talent who can deliver both behind and in front of the stumps.
Overall, the Indians came out in full force on a sunny Sunday. While they had on sweatshirts and hoodies in the morning, they ditched them as the afternoon approached and the Oval shone under the clear blue sky.
Barring Ajinkya Rahane and the fast bowling trio of Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav, the rest of the Indian team had to go through a batting session.
Gill enjoyed his time in the sun. He has experience of longer format cricket in English conditions, having played two Tests there in 2021, including the previous WTC final in Southampton, as well as three County Championship games for Glamorgan in 2022, in which he averaged 61.00. Has scored 244 runs at an average of. Four innings including 92 against Worcestershire and a century against Sussex. Incidentally, Gill batted at number 3 in all four innings.
With KL Rahul injured, Gill is set to open with Rohit Sharma in the WTC final. Gill arrived in England on the back of excellent form in all international formats in 2023 and the IPL. However, Gill will be wary of both Australia’s bowling attack and seamer-friendly conditions where the Dukes ball can surprise the best batsmen. On Sunday, Gill spent a lot of one-on-one time with batting coach Vikram Rathod.
A good opening partnership acted as a catalyst for India in the first four Tests of the 2021-22 Test series in England, with both Rohit and Rahul scoring big runs. Both scored match-winning centuries, Rahul in the second Test at Lord’s and Rohit in the fourth Test at The Oval.
Any apprehensions India might have felt about playing in June (the Oval has hosted Test matches since 1880 but never in June) would have been mitigated by the forecast for the coming week, which would have ranged from the late teens to early Sunny weather is promised with temperatures up to . 20 Celsius. Although there has been no confirmation as to which track will be used for the match, it will be a fresh pitch with the surface likely to be dry.
All three Indian spinners bowled and batted on Sunday, which suggests that if India choose two slow bowlers, both R Ashwin and Axar Patel are in contention for the second spinner’s spot. But if they field four seamers, India have ensured that Thakur is ready with the key pair of Jaydev Unadkat and Umesh Shami and the new ball of Siraj.
Both Thakur and Unadkat bowled long spells and then batted well. Unadkat also got advice from head coach Rahul Dravid on his bat swing.
The impression you will walk away with after watching the training for over three hours would be this: India have kept all their options open, but are prepared.
Nagaraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo