Connect with us


IND vs ENG 3rd Test: Series level, depleted India search for momentum against England

England have posed some tough questions and India haven’t quite found answers to all of them going into the Rajkot third Test

Heading into the first Test in Hyderabad, the local association marketed it as a marquee series and gave it a festive feel – chai, cricket and biryani. The pre-series predictions were that the home side would romp home; pundits said 4-1, because England’s risk would bring them some reward.

India’s Yashasvi Jaiswal (2L), Dhruv Jurel (2R), Sarfaraz Khan and Devdutt Padikkal (L) attend a practice session at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on February 13(AFP)

On match eve, Virat Kohli dropped out for personal reasons, England won the opening Test through Ollie Pope’s ambush, and even though the series is now level on 1-1, the general feeling is of the hosts having to play catch up.

Discover the thrill of cricket like never before, exclusively on HT. Explore now!

The swag Indian teams carry at home comes not just from their phenomenal record – no Test series lost in 12 years – but also due to the presence of batting heavyweights. Kohli bustling into the training arena, earplugs in place and wearing tattoos. Cheteshwar Pujara, with no such gait but his powers of concentration would become evident as he settled into a net session.

There’s no Kohli for the rest of the series, and India have taken a huge call by not sending a SOS to Pujara, who is right here in Rajkot, but getting ready for Saurashtra’s next Ranji Trophy encounter against Manipur starting on Friday.

Instead, India are set to reward Sarfaraz Khan’s domestic exploits with a Test cap on Thursday; also to young Uttar Pradesh wicket-keeper Dhruv Jurel, who has clocked only two first-class seasons. There is nervousness among the decision-makers over whether the young crop will be able to provide adequate cover for seasoned players, especially Kohli and KL Rahul. Of course, India may not admit that.

“Such a time (transition) is inevitable, whether it comes after two years or five. The new players come with a lot of first-class experience. It is good that they are getting an opportunity at home,” said Ravindra Jadeja, who has been passed fit on return from hamstring injury that forced him to miss the second Test in Visakhapatnam. “Rather than Australia and South Africa, it is ideal for them since they have an idea how the pitch would behave.”

The only trump card in India’s batting kit is Rohit Sharma. The captain has been busy having one-on-one sessions with many of the players. Not just Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sarfaraz, who he has seen from their formative years in Mumbai, but also bowlers, including Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Siraj. Body language suggested that discussions revolved around how to counter England’s batting blitz.

It’s a testimony to Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum that they have forced India to alter their gameplan. The Rajkot pitch will be, if not the usual one ideal for a run-fest, anything but a square turner. India remain vary of their batting inexperience vis-a-vis England’s batting belligerence. The pitch has some grass cover, but a lot of it may be to bind it. It may turn out to be a typical Indian spinning wicket which would not break up in a hurry, but once it does, batting in the second innings could become challenging.


The biggest reason Bazball retains its flavour two Tests into the series is because England batting has been able to neutralise the threat Indian spinners usually pose. “Their style is aggressive. They play differently, so it takes some time to get used to it. Once we know their style, we can change our gameplan accordingly,” said Jadeja.

So far, Indian spinners have taken fewer wickets than their England counterparts (23 to 33), have an inferior average (38.39 to 33.9) and conceded more runs per over (4.18 to 3.48). The onus is on the Indian spin attack to bounce back. There has been criticism of Rohit Sharma’s defensive fields for spin at different stages of the series.

Jadeja explained that a lot of it was tactical, a counter to what England were trying to do. “When they bat aggressively, occasionally they would connect, sometimes they would not. But they will play the same way. As a bowling unit, our plan is to do differently from what they are trying to do,” he said. “If they are playing their shots, we don’t want to allow that and concede runs. We want to set the fields and stop them from scoring.”

The proof is in the pudding, but England have certainly forced India to think.

Stokes will play his 100th Test, but played it down: “Milestones…eh, they are what they are.”

India’s only area of dominance in the series so far has been fast bowling. England played Mark Wood in the first Test and James Anderson in Vizag. But their performances were overshadowed by Jasprit Bumrah’s sizzling pace and reverse swing. To counter that, England are getting Wood and Anderson to join forces here. Getting Wood in could work well against India’s inexperienced batters who may not have played such high pace before. A dose of short-pitched bowling may be in the offing for the likes of Sarfaraz, and Jurel, if he plays.


The BCCI media manager said Bumrah had joined the team at Rajkot, but the speedster did not turn up for training on Wednesday. Named vice-captain for the remaining Tests and given his bowling form, it would be a strange move if he does not play. It is equally unusual that Bumrah opted not to train at all at the match venue on any of the three training days in the lead up to the Test. Washington Sundar has had long batting and bowling stints and remains an option if India chose to add depth to their batting.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Must See

More in News