India look for new ways to tackle England’s bazball attack
India is seldom stretched at home but following a dramatic loss in Hyderabad, they have plenty to ponder
England’s players during a practice session ahead of the second cricket Test match between India and England at Dr. Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, in Visakhapatnam, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (PTI Photo/R Senthilkumar)
Facing pressure and limited resources, India must devise innovative strategies to challenge England’s bold ‘Bazballers’ in the upcoming second Test, beginning in Visakhapatnam, on Friday (2).
India is seldom stretched at home but following a dramatic loss in Hyderabad, they have plenty to ponder and the absence of injured Ravindra Jadeja and K L Rahul has made their task tougher.
Three years ago, the mighty hosts found themselves in a similar situation having lost the opening Test to England at Chennai but bounced back to win the series.
However, the Joe Root-led side was a different breed then and this time India plan to fightback against a team that has redefined the way Test cricket is played and defied all probability to win the series opener after conceding a 190-run lead on a turning track.
England batters, led by Ollie Pope, swept and reverse swept their way to success in the first Test, taking Rohit and his bunch by surprise, while making the most potent spin trio in the world look ordinary.
India will not have the luxury of fielding Jadeja in this game but Ashwin, four shy of the 500-wicket milestone in Tests, and Axar will need to redraw their plans to come back hard at their uber-aggressive opponents who are sure to employ the sweeping tactics irrespective of the conditions.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is expected to play in Jadeja’s absence and it remains to be seen if India goes in with only one pacer in Jasprit Bumrah and play another spinner, possibly off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar.
Uncapped left-arm spinner Sourabh Kumar has also been added to the squad.
Not just India’s lethal spinners were tested against Bazball, their batters’ struggles on turning tracks also came to the fore as left-arm spinner Tom Hartley transformed a seemingly forgettable debut into a match winning one.
Rohit, perhaps, was the only frontline batter who looked assured in the second innings while the young brigade, especially Shubman Gill, were guilty of playing the turning ball with hard hands.
The defensive approach of Gill, who had a breakout 2023 in the shorter formats, contributed to his downfall.
With Virat Kohli set to return in the third Test, there will be immense pressure on the likes of Gill and even Shreyas Iyer to deliver here in Vizag.
The home team batters are not as comfortable as their English counterparts in playing the sweep but they need to find a way to match the visitors’ high-risk play.
Rajat Patidar, who was also a part of the squad in Hyderabad, is likely to replace Rahul.
After scoring a bagful of runs in domestic cricket, Sarfaraz Khan has finally got the selectors’ nod and would be desperate for an India cap. However, the management will have a closer look at conditions before taking a final decision on the playing 11.
England bring in Anderson, Bashir
England, on the other hand, might sense a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series that can severely mount pressure on the Indians.
The way Stokes used and backed his resources in the opener was a captaincy masterclass.
The call to give an extended spell to debutant spinner Hartley in the first innings despite Yashasvi Jaiswal’s brutal assault and learning from how Ashwin and Co. bowled spoke a lot about the leadership style of Stokes, who calls himself a great observer of the game.
The tourists also have a point of concern after experienced left-arm spinner Jack Leach has been ruled out of the match because of a knee injury and young off-spinner Shoaib Bashir will make his debut here.
Pacer Mark Wood had failed to make an impact in Hyderabad despite bowling 25 overs across two innings and for this match the visitors have replaced him with veteran pacer James Anderson, whose unerring accuracy can bring higher value if the track remains slow and low.
In that context, England will not put into practice their coach Brendon McCullum’s thought of fielding an all-spin attack for this game.
The ACA-VDCA stadium has staged two Tests till date and the pitch usually favours the batters in the first innings.
England have thrown down the gauntlet with a sensational result and it remains to be seen what kind of surface India go with as they seek to draw parity.
A downright turner could backfire on the hosts, though they would be tempted to take that punt.
Squads: India: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (WK), Dhruv Jurel (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Avesh Khan, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Washington Sundar, Sourabh Kumar.
England (Playing 11): Ben Stokes (Captain), Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley, Joe Root, Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes (wk), Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir, James Anderson. Match starts at 9.30 am. (PTI)