Alastair Cook is hoping Jos Buttler can do justice to his ‘special talent’ on his return to Test cricket after 13 months out of England’s team.
Buttler, renowned as one of the most thrilling strikers of a white ball, was dropped mid-series against Pakistan last winter.
He will return on Saturday, as a specialist batsman at No 7 but leaving the wicketkeeping gloves to Jonny Bairstow, after England were left with little option but to drop out-of-form Ben Duckett.
Cook confirmed the plan as England search for the formula to help them back into a series India lead 1-0 with three to play, the first of which begins in the early hours on Saturday in Mohali.
There were also two enforced changes, with Stuart Broad and Zafar Ansari both injured.
The left-arm spinner’s back spasm is not thought to be a long-term issue – and he might well have given way in any case, having struggled in the 246-run defeat in Vizag.
There is more serious concern over Broad’s strained tendon in his right foot, and Cook reported medics were surprised he was able to bowl so effectively through the pain last week.
Chris Woakes, who rested his knee niggle in the second Test, was back for the third – while it was looking increasingly likely veteran off-spinner Gareth Batty wouldreplace Ansari.
The England captain underlined the challenge facing Buttler to deliver immediately back in Test cricket – having played just one first-class match since he last featured.
“It’s clearly not ideal, not having any red-ball (match) practice out here,” said Cook.
“But sometimes when the pressure’s off, you can come out and do something special.”
Cook is convinced, as are many others, that the gifted Buttler will prove his modest average of 30 after 15 Tests is merely a starting point.
He said: “He’s an extremely talented cricketer – we’ve all seen that, clearly mainly in the one-day and Twenty20 format, probably up there with the top three or four short-form players in the world.
“We’re dealing with a very talented guy.”
England will not be taking any chances with Broad, meanwhile.
Cook said: “It’s a shame after the way he bowled in that last innings – you wouldn’t know that his foot was as bad as it was – but the specialist advice is that there is a risk of it going totally, and he would be out for a period of time.
“They were quite surprised how well he got through those four and a half days after doing it in the third or fourth over.
“Knowing that, if he played here and did a lot more damage to the tendon in the second over, then you’d look stupid.”
Woakes and James Anderson were set to take the new ball – with all-rounder Ben Stokes the other pace option and spinners Batty, Moeen Ali and Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid poised to complete the attack.
Cook’s confidence in his spinners – Rashid especially, with the help of England’s specialist consultant Saqlain Mushtaq – is growing by the day.
“The difference with our spinners since [the two-Test tour in] Bangladesh is that we’ve been able to keep the run-rate lower,” said Cook.
“The spinners were going at four and a half an over in Bangladesh on spinning wickets – but here with Saqy’s help, all four have had a better trajectory on the ball.”
Rashid’s upward curve is the revelation of this trip so far – and at 28, the leg-spinner may at last be fulfilling his early potential.
Cook added: “I’m particularly impressed with Rash, because he’s come in and done incredibly well. I’ve faced him in the nets since 2009, and we’ve all known what a fantastic leg-spinner he can be. We’re finally seeing that he knows he can do it in Test cricket.”
England’s batsmen, collectively undone in Vizag, will have to adapt again here – in a different formation.
Buttler’s return at No 7 spells a move one place up the order to four for utility man Moeen.
Yorkshireman Bairstow – the world’s leading Test runscorer this year, at seven - must step up to no 5.
“Jonny had a glint in his eye when I said we’d like you to move up to five,” said Cook.
“If everything was ideal we’d leave him at seven, because it gives him a bit more time to recover (from wicketkeeping), but it gives him more time to bat with better batters.”