INDIA V ENGLAND | PAYTM TEST SERIES | 1ST TEST | CHEPAUK, CHENNAI
DAY 5 REVIEW
The Englishmen are proving they know cricket in the subcontinent better than their hosts.
After trouncing Sri Lanka 2-0 in their own backyard, they have outsmarted and outplayed India. And also the experts who had criticized England for slowing down the game during Day 4.
India, on their part, looked better when they were defeating Australia with an inexperienced team few days ago.
Whomever was the mastermind within the England camp for slowing down the game, needs a doffing of the hat.
Experts, including legend Shane Warne and former England skipper Michael Vaughan publicly rebuked the Joe Root-led team for wasting time over nothing on Day 4.
This led to several speculations and theories over the specific reason behind England's action. Among them:
1. Fool India into complacency by giving out the impression that they are not going in for the kill but contended with a draw.
2. Not allow India to strike off a good amount from the target by the end of the fourth day's play and grow in confidence.
3. Bide time for the ball to reverse swing, then make their ace pace bowler Jimmy Anderson have a go at India's top order.
4. Bat long to ensure there's considerable wear and tear of the pitch. The idea was: The longer you bat the lesser time you'll need to dismiss the opposition on a worsening pitch.
5. Provide a satisfactory cushion for spinners to bowl freely by ensuring the game is out of India's reach.
ESPN Cricinfo quoted Ravichandran Ashwin at the end of Day 4, saying: "They had two options in front of them in the morning. They could have asked us to follow on.
The only reason I can see [for not doing that], is they wanted to give a bit of a rest to their bowlers, which is a part of the game that sometimes is not very well understood from the outside.
So that could have been the thinking in wanting to bat again and give the bowlers rest, because sometimes fresh bowlers can do the trick more than tiring bowlers."
Root, the player of the match for his high-class 218 in his 100th Test, laid all the theories to rest by revealing his and England's perspective: "We wanted to make sure we get to 400 and there are only two outcomes in the game.
"We wanted to take India's win out of the equation. As a bowling group we didn't want to worry about the run rate."
Now, with a 1-0 lead from a 227-run first Test win in this 4-Test series, England are quietly taking huge strides, even toward their chance of qualifying for the World Test Championship final in June, in London.
If India are to halt this surge and claim their rightful place to play New Zealand in the WTC final, they'll need to make timely changes now.
These changes do not mean replacing Virat Kohli as skipper with stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane, who hasn't lost a Test from the five he has stood-in for his captain.
There are cries though from a section of fans who want Team India to continue their Test winning streak with Rahane at the helm.
Here are 5 radical changes that coach Ravi Shastri and Kohli may have to make:
1. Promote Washington Sundar as opener: Rohit Sharma's failure is adding pressure on Gill and Pujara.
Because Rohit's early exit, Gill is forced to curb his natural strokeful approach and Pujara is making his entry almost as an opener.
The negativity that Rohit's speedy dismissals are generating up the order is hurting India.
The best option would be to promote Washington Sundar to open alongside Gill. Sundar played the second new ball, Anderson and Jofra Archer well for his unbeaten 85 in the first innings of this first Test.
He is a better bet as an opener than KL Rahul or Mayank Agarwal who haven't played in a Test for long now yet are raring to go.
2. Bring Mayank at No. 5: There's been a clamor for offering Mayank, who'll celebrate his 30th birthday on February 16, a chance to prove himself again.
The ideal moment would be now in a home series.
3. Get Shardul Thakur back for the 2nd Test as Hardik Pandya isn't bowling: It's been unfair on Thakur to watch India struggle after having helped guide them to a remarkable victory few days ago in Brisbane.
It's hurting more when you have made your mark as an allrounder, picking up crucial wickets and contributing enormously with the bat.
You then find yourself sidelined without any explicable reason.
Now that preferred allrounder Hardik isn't bowling and Nadeem not up to the mark in the first Test, India's thinktank would do well to draft in another from the fearless Young India brigade for the second Test.
4. Rest Rahane and Rohit Sharma at least for a Test using rotation policy like the Englishmen are doing: England will have several players who played in their first Test win at the Chepauk go back home.
This is part of their new rotation policy to avoid player burnout and help their mental well-being during this lockdown.
The move is positive and is backed, supported by all England players, including Jos Butler and Jofra Archer who have shared their view with the media recently on this matter.
Resting Rahane and Rohit using this method not only helps them with their mental well-being, but also does not give the press a chance to claim that they have been dropped.
5. Give KL Rahul a chance: Coach Shastri and the cricket world know KL Rahul's talent.
He was on the verge of playing in Australia when he unfortunately hurt his wrist during a practice match at the MCG.
So, instead of playing in the third Sydney Test he flew back home for rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.
He is due for a return to Test cricket and the second Test will be the most opportune time Team India provides him to make his comeback.
Kohli made few eyeball-popping comments after India's loss, saying: "Firstly start off with good body language, understand the fields, and at the end of the day it's the mindset."
He was referring to the changes he'd like to see in the team he leads for the second Test.
In other words, Kohli clearly wants each member of his team to show that Character, Intent, Attitude to succeed that was on display in Australia.
He'd also like at least one player to stay at the crease as long as Root did for England. The England captain said spending long hours on his exercise bike helped him build endurance.
Kohli knows full well, if India fails again during this series, their chances of qualifying for the WTC final will be in jeopardy.
And with it, the fans' interest in Test cricket that was rekindled so well by an inexperienced India side, especially by the courageous Young India group including Pant, Gill, Sundar and Thakur.