India’s drubbing has left everyone in the country seething – including cricket media, fans, and pundits. While everyone expected India to roll over England, the Three Lions have taken everyone by surprise and put on a clinical display.
They have shown that, even if you’re the No. 1 ranked Test team in the world, if you don’t prepare accordingly and underestimate the opposition, anything is possible.
Now, India is 2-0 down in the five match series. With three matches still to go, India still stands a chance to win or at least draw the series.
An energetic show from the batting order is needed but what should be team line-up for the third Test? So analyzing the squad and conditions. Here is how the Indian team should look for the third Test.
The openers have failed to give the team a solid start, leaving Virat Kohli and the following batsmen exposed to the new Duke ball. Jimmy Anderson is a wily operator of the new ball and, with conditions that aid swing, he is unplayable, which he showed in the first innings at Lord’s – claiming 5/20.
Chris Woakes came and wrecked havoc, taking six scalps in the second Test. Then there is Stuart Broad, who can rip apart any batting line-up in one spell. The 6/25 at Old Trafford against India in 2011, 8/15 against Australia at Nottingham in 2015 and 6/17 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 2016 show Broad can singlehandedly destroy the opposition.
India needs a steady start against the new ball to blunt the threat of England’s frontline bowler. But the icing on the cake for England bowlers is Sam Curran, who doesn’t give any freebie.
The batsmen are always under the pump. Hence, the top order role is crucial if the middle order is to kick on and get a big score in the first innings.
India’s openers have looked all at sea against the new ball bowlers of England, but Murali Vijay got runs against the same bowling attack back in the 2014 tour of England. KL Rahul has got the talent and temperament to do well, and has done well for India overseas in Sri Lanka, Australia and West Indies.
Perhaps India were undercooked – that’s why both openers couldn’t do justice to their role – but with now two matches under their belt and more practice, the openers will be more prepared and honestly, these two are the best we could have in this conditions.
So Vijay-Rahul should get another go. Cheteshwar Pujara, with all that he has done for India at No. 3 over the years and his experience of playing in county cricket, should keep the spot for next three Tests.
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But the top three have got to find a way to not just to hang in there, but score at a decent rate. Pujara blocked the ball for some time in the last Test, but it wasn’t a long time before Broad removed him with a beauty. Rotating strike is essential.
The biggest question mark is over the fitness of Virat Kohli, as his back problem has resurfaced again.
Is playing a half-fit Virat worth a shot with the tour of Australia, New Zealand coming and, more importantly, a World Cup next year? The final call is for Kohli to take, but if he isn’t fit to play, India loses its chief batting kingpin.
Karun Nair, in that case, will replace Kohli. The gulf between Virat and other batsmen overseas so much that in five Tests played across South Africa and England, Kohli averages more than 52, while next best average by an Indian batsman is 17 by Shikhar Dhawan. The remaining batsmen have to stand up now, or series is gone.
Ajinkya Rahane will keep his place at No. 5 in the batting order. Dinesh Karthik as wicketkeeper has looked tentative, though he took an excellent catch off Jonny Bairstow.
As far as his batting goes, Karthik has struggled against the incoming deliveries and has three single-digit scores apart from the 20 he got at Edgbaston. He seemed injured as well.
So, Rishabh Pant will most likely come in. For the 33-year-old Karthik, this could be his last Test series, and hence team management has to carefully weigh in and provide enough opportunities to showcase himself before they give him the axe.
There are lots of questions surrounding Hardik Pandya the all-rounder. With 90 runs and three wickets to show in the two Tests played, he has not done justice to the role of an all-rounder.
Pandya can neither bat for three hours nor take wickets when the team needs the most. India needed the third pacer to stand up at Lord’s when England was in trouble at 4/89 on the third day at lunch.
But with frontline bowlers tired, Hardik couldn’t do the job of holding one end up or taking the wickets. It’s better to strengthen the batting with the inclusion of another batsman.
While Indian team management thinks playing six proper batsmen is a conservative move, given how much the batting has faltered in first two Tests, India should go in with six frontline batsmen.
Ravichandran Ashwin showed the world why he is still one of the best bowlers by picking up seven wickets in the first Test. Going ahead, India will need more of such bowling and even his contribution with the bat.
At Lord’s, he was the top scorer in both innings with 29 and 33*. Ashwin seems better bet as an all-rounder with both of his batting and bowling coming good. He could easily be the all-rounder India needs but team management needs to speak to him and entrust him with the role for some time.
Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma will be in the playing eleven unless for an injury. Jasprit Bumrah is likely to be the third pacer. Bumrah’s unusual action, the pace and the bounce which generates off the pitch make him a tough customer to play.
But will he be up for Test match rigor after a layoff of a few months? Playing a half-fit Bumrah over Umesh Yadav would be another wrong call they make. Umesh bowled well at Edgbaston and could be slotted in comfortably as the third seamer.
India doesn’t need to push Bumrah hard and risk his injury flaring up again.
India has won only one out of six matches played here. If India is to create a history, this has to start from Trent Bridge before looking any further in the series.