VIZAG: India have copped a lot flak in the aftermath of the 28-run defeat to England in Hyderabad. Once the dust has settled, Rohit Sharma’s men will realise they only have themselves to blame for the defeat.
India’s insipid show paled against the refreshing enterprise of an England team willing to put everything on the line against very tough customers at home.England’s gamble paid off spectacularly. Ollie Pope and debutant Tom Hartley, in particular, came out with flying colours.
The cricket caravan has rolled into this port city, also called the ‘City of Destiny’, where England should be wary of a strong pushback in the second Test beginning Feb 2.
There are quite a few talking points regarding the team combination following the injury-enforced absence of KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja. The image of Jadeja clutching his hamstring after being runout by a direct hit from England skipper Ben Stokes remains the defining image of India’s doomed chase in Hyderabad.
Rajat Patidar had joined the team ahead of the first Test as Virat Kohli’s replacement and looks ready to walk into the XI here, despite the clamour for Sarfaraz Khan’s inclusion. All eyes will also be on the spin department, which looked bereft of ideas even as Hartley, a little-known unheralded Lancastrian, put England 1-0 up with his second innings spell of 7/62.
Everyday is not a Sunday, but returns of 3/126 from 29 overs on the last two days of the Hyderabad Test will rankle Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, now that Jadeja has been rendered hors de combat. Left-arm wrist spinner Kuleep Yadav should be a straight fit for Jadeja, and batting skills may help Washington Sundar pip left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar as the four-spinner theory gains credence. Mohammed Siraj may find himself on the bench.
Mark Wood has resigned himself to playing a limited role in a series that is likely to see spinners wheeling in marathon spells Hartley bowled 51.2 overall and Joe Root sent down 48.
Gill, Iyer hope to find form
The form of young Indian batters is a cause for concern too. Anil Kumble has already said that Shubman Gill has got the cushion that Cheteshwar Pujara did not. The 24-year-old had scored 128 in India’s first innings against Australia in Ahmedabad in March last and his highest at home has been an unbeaten 36. Gill has 21 Tests under his belt and has not scored a half century in his last 11 Test innings at home.
Shreyas Iyer, who has played 13 Tests, too is under the cosh but like India’s coach Rahul Dravid, batting coach Vikram Rathour said the young turks need more time, though he added application is the key.
“There are young batters in our team who have not played much Test cricket. So, we need to be patient with them. Batters like (Shubman) Gill, (Yashasvi) Jaiswal and (Shreyas) Iyer will eventually start getting big runs, I’m sure of it,” Rathour said on Wednesday. “There’s a difference between playing with intent and playing attacking cricket. I want them to play with intent. If there is the opportunity to score some runs, they should take it.”
South Africa found out in Cape Town how dangerous India can be when conditions suit them, and it could be England’s turn next on a surface that is unlikely to aid the attack mentality of the England batters.