India is facing England in a 4-match Test series. Trailing the visitors 0-1, India will be looking to bounce back as the take the field on 13th February, 2021. The question that is revolving in the entire country – Can India make a comeback in the series? Extraordinary is the word to describe what’s happening in Indian cricket. Never has a venue hosted back-to-back Tests within a fortnight. Never has Virat Kohli lost four Tests in a row as India captain. The last time England had won the first Test of a series in India before this was in 1976. And yet, they made four changes to their winning combination, two forced and two unforced while announcing a 12-man squad. India too are expected to bring in changes, but certainly not as many as England. Despite the rarity of the situation, India seem calm. That’s what a four-Test series does to a trailing team—it allows time for introspection.
Also encouraging is the Chepauk pitch in question, one India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane feels should aid turn from Day 1. But most of it stems from the high of winning a Test series in Australia with a depleting team. Barring Ishant Sharma and Kohli’s return, nothing much has changed between Australia and Chennai. The first Test at Chepauk was basically a match-up between a subcontinent-acclimatised team and one that was more used to coping with Australian pitches. All India needed was recalibrate their mode. Losing, hopefully, was part of that process.
India will miss the service of Jadeja in the entire series :
India still have to do without some of their best bowlers. In Mohammad Shami, they would have had someone like James Anderson who could reverse the ball on a pitch that tends to get abrasive with time. But with the SG ball not lasting 80 overs, pacers may not be as effective, giving India the headache of either resting Jasprit Bumrah for the pink-ball Test or continue with him. Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur are the other pacers in the squad. Of all the recuperating bowlers, India are bound to miss Ravindra Jadeja the most. As a left-arm spinner who gives depth to India’s batting, Jadeja would have allowed India to go for a specialist spinner in the form of Kuldeep Yadav.
Can India make a comeback as they take on England in the 2nd Test starting from 13th February :
Clearly not impressed with Shahbaz Nadeem in the first Test, India might want to go for Axar Patel. Washington Sundar stays if India want to further bolster their batting. If not, Yadav may get the nod. India’s consistent reluctance in picking Yadav doesn’t do any good to his chances though. “Everyone’s in the mix,” said Rahane when asked about the possible spin combination. “If in India the ball is turning then the opposition is under pressure. I am not too concerned about how our spinners are bowling. I am sure they will come up with a plan and bowl well.”
England have surprised though. Their rest-and-rotate policy has paved the way for Stuart Broad to come in for James Anderson and Ben Foakes to replace Jos Buttler. Moeen Ali is set to bowl off-breaks instead of Dom Bess who got five wickets in the first Test. With Jofra Archer ruled out due to an elbow injury, Olly Stone and Chris Woakes will vie for the second pacer’s slot. “There’s two different ways we can go,” England captain Joe Root said in a video conference. “We can have the same balance in terms of straight like-for-like swaps with Stone and Broad coming in for Archer and Anderson, or Woakes could come into things as well which adds to the batting and obviously gives us a huge amount of control with the ball. We will make those decisions off the back of today, look at the wicket, get a bit more information a day out, and either way it looks like we have a very strong squad on this wicket.”
Chris Woakes might make his comeback in the side :
In the lead, England have somehow managed to downgrade their bowling attack. Not pairing Broad with Anderson makes little sense when there is no Archer. Woakes can reverse the ball but was dismal the last time England came here in 2016. But Root said he is thinking long-term. Another chink in their bowling could be Ali, who will be playing his first Test since August, 2019. And he doesn’t have a great record in India as well, taking 10 wickets for 649 runs in 2016.
England sticking to rotation policy :
“It gives him (Anderson) the best opportunity to be fit and available for those last two games. Everyone’s heart was in favor of him being available for this game but also you have to look at the bigger picture and ideally if he is available for two of the last three, that is a huge asset for us the way he is bowling and his reputation, as well as his numbers and the way he has performed in recent games. “
“It wasn’t an easy decision. The message for him moving forward is to keep working at that consistency of his game, delivering that skill time and time again. It gives Moeen a great opportunity to come back with all of his experience.”– Joe Root
With the series set up superbly, and spectators set to enter the stadium for the first time since the pandemic broke, all this Test required was a bit of intrigue. That was provided in bits and pieces throughout the length of Friday. First was England’s puzzling selection explanation—not picking the best fast bowling pair, dropping a performing wicketkeeper-batsman for a specialist wicketkeeper (not at all how India think) and picking a spinner with a dubious record in India.
Kuldeep Yadav might find himself sidelined again :
Rahane shouldered arms to a question on Wasim Jaffer before asking the media to check up on his batting record against South Africa (in 2019) and not “look for masala” with questions on captaincy. Questions on Yadav were deflected as well. This too has been happening for quite some time now. The wrist-spinner can’t be in a good headspace, bouncing off hotels on tours, watching reserves getting the nod ahead of him. If the pitch for the second Test is as good for spinners as it sounds, Yadav merits a place. But India have opted to leave that decision till the toss. Or so it seems.