For the second Test starting on Saturday, the pitch has a “darker soil”, as England’s new wicketkeeper Ben Foakes put it, and it is going “to turn earlier than what it did in the first Test”.
Now it becomes imperative that India stop Root & Co. from sweeping and on Thursday that was part of the game-plan as they got back to practice.
“There’s no doubt the sweep had a big effect on the first match and India need to find solutions. For that they need to get the team combination right,” former national selector and opening batsman Devang Gandhi told TOI.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who took an injection to treat an injured right knee and was ruled out of the first Test, was back in practice and did both batting and bowling in the nets.
According to sources, “the desperation was palpable to play him in the first Test too” and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t take the field for the second, even if there is a case of playing through pain just a bit.
“India are sorely missing Ravindra Jadeja, the pace that he bowls doesn’t allow the batsmen to sweep. Axar hits the right areas and will probably do a decent job,” Gandhi said.
The crucial aspect about stopping the sweep is bowling at a pace, unless a bowler has the guile, quality and variation of Ashwin. And that is one area that the team management has to keep in mind when they get to select the third spinner — one among chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, leggie Rahul Chahar and off-spinner Washington Sundar.
Chahar, though, was sent back into standbyes late on Thursday after Axar’s official re-inclusion in the squad. That would mean that it will be a straight toss-up between Kuldeep and Washington. Washington’s batting was a revelation in the first Test but he was disappointing with the ball.
So there’s a possibility that Uttar Pradesh spinner will get his first chance since January 2019. “He has been with the team for so long. He did well in Dharamshala on his debut in 2016 and the Sydney Test in 2019. It’s time the team management gives Kuldeep the chance that is long overdue,” Gandhi said.
While adjustments in the bowling attack is the way forward for the second Test, the batsmen, too need to do better than what they did in the first Test.
Sweep is a shot that no one other than Rishabh Pant in the Indian toporder plays. So, it will be crucial that the batsmen use their feet more and negate the threat that the English spinners, who took 11 of the 20 Indian wickets in the first Test, pose.
“It is just a case of adjustment. England came into this series after some superb preparation in Sri Lanka. India had been in Australia for three months and it takes a little time to get used to even the home conditions. The first Test match has helped them switch back into India mode and they should fight back in the series,” Gandhi said.
It’s for Kohli & Co. to justify the faith that the nation has in them.