England replace Ollie Robinson with Mark Wood as players meet Dalai Lama ahead of final India Test

England players meet the Dalai Lama
England players meet the Dalai Lama - Will Macpherson

England have selected Shoaib Bashir for the final Test in India, despite the 20-year-old missing training on the eve of the game with illness, as a group of players travelled to meet the Dalai Lama today in the hope of ending their tour with a victory. England are 3-1 down in the five-Test series.

England made just one change to the XI that lost in Ranchi, Mark Wood returning for Ollie Robinson to bring some “pace and firepower” on what is expected to be a good batting wicket.

Mark Wood bowling in the nets
Mark Wood has been picked to bring 'pace and firepower' - Getty Images/Gareth Copley

Bashir and Robinson both missed training on Wednesday with stomach upsets, with illness also affecting the umpiring team, who are staying in the team hotel. Kumar Dharmasena, who is meant to be the television umpire, and Joel Wilson, who is one of the standing umpires, are both unwell. That could see a throwback to Covid times with the Indian fourth umpire, Jayaraman Madanagopal, called up to officiate in the middle.

“It’s not a major issue, we just wanted to safeguard against it spreading to anybody else,” Ben Stokes, the England captain, said.

“I don’t think it’s anything to be too concerned about. They both woke up with slightly upset stomachs and the day before the game you don’t want to put anybody at risk so we’ve decided to keep them away from the team. It’s the sensible thing to do. When you’ve got so many people contained in the same space all the time you want to limit the chance of it spreading. So to keep the two guys who are slightly unwell back at the hotel away from the guys is the sensible thing to do.”

Shoaib Bashir watches training
Shoaib Bashir (right) missed training on the eve of the fifth Test with illness - Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Stokes said he expected Bashir to pull through, but if he is unable to take the field England do not have a spin-bowling like-for-like replacement in the squad, having not called up reinforcements after Jack Leach went down injured and Rehan Ahmed returned home for personal reasons. They have only 14 players with them in India.

That would make the uncapped Surrey fast bowler Gus Atkinson favourite to claim a place in the XI, although there is batsman Dan Lawrence, who bowls handy off-spin, too. Stokes said England would cross that bridge when they came to it.

Dharamsala is a friendlier venue to seam than most in India, with all 36 wickets that fell in a recent Ranji Trophy match, played on the same pitch as the Test, falling to quick bowlers. The pitch was described as “bare” by Stokes, who added that it would still be a “bonus” if he bowled at all.

“Before we even got here we were probably thinking it was going to be a three seamer, one-spinner attack but then when we saw the wicket and then saw it again today I think going with two seamers and two spinners is probably the right call,” he said.

“We felt there would probably be a bit more grass on the wicket, just because of where we are, but overall I think the wicket looks an absolute belter. So playing two seamers and still having Bash and Tom (Hartley) gives us a good mixture when you’re a little bit unsure of what it will do as the Test goes on.

England train on the outfield as the pitch is prepared
England train on the outfield as the pitch is prepared - AFP/Sajjad Hussain

“It looks like a wicket that could have a bit of pace and carry in it. Jimmy [James Anderson] has been Jimmy on this trip, he’s been absolutely awesome, and having a fresh Mark Wood on a wicket that you feel is going to offer some pace… it’s something that’s been consistent whenever we’ve gone with two seamers: looking at having a bowler like Jimmy but wanting to have some pace and firepower to break the game open.”

Robinson’s tour ends having played just one wicketless game in which he suffered a back issue.

Ollie Robinson and Ollie Pope of England pose for a portrait at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium
Ollie Robinson (left) has been dropped in Dharamsala - Getty Images/Gareth Copley

“Ollie is going to be more disappointed than anyone else,” Stokes said. “He went seven months without playing, missed the first three games, then got his opportunity and an uncontrollable thing happened. He was out on the field, he still bowled and he still tried.

“Ollie did everything in his power to put in a match-winning performance last week and unfortunately not everything works out the way we want it to. When you see someone putting in the hard work and showing that desire to not only be physically and mentally fit and something happens to them that is uncontrollable, you can’t really moan about it.”

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