India’s key batsmen might have got among the runs in their only practice match against Essex before the start of the Test series against England but there those nagging issues with technique persisted.
Shikhar Dhawan got out for a golden duck in the first over, Cheteshwar Pujara followed soon after and Ajinkya Rahane, who was promoted to bat at No.4, edged an away moving delivery.
India’s top-order found the Essex pacers too hot to handle as Dhawan found an edge to the wicketkeeper off Matt Coles.
Considered to be one of India’s batting mainstays in the longest format, Pujara lasted just seven balls.
Pujara had played county cricket in England for Yorkshire leading up to this series but hasn’t been in the best of forms. In six matches he amassed just 172 runs at a poor average of 14.33 with a highest score of 41.
The overseas records of Dhawan and Pujara are far from impressive and Rahane, once India’s best bet overseas, has not looked the same batsman for quite some time now.
But Rahane has proved his credentials as a batsman in testing conditions. He was surprisingly dropped from the playing XI in the first two Tests in South Africa and India paid a heavy price, losing both matches. Rahane’s replacement Rohit Sharma did little to give his captain any confidence. Rahane was recalled for the third Test and he made an immediate impact to save India from embarrassment.
India will have to battle swing throughout the Test series in England come August 1 and coming out on top against the likes of James Anderson & Co. will not be easy for India’s top order.
India have had trouble against swing bowlers and not just away from home but in India as well. The more recent one at home was when Sri Lanka’s pacer Suranga Lakmal rattled the Indian line-up in the Kolkata Test last year.
In South Africa too, the story was no different. While both teams struggled in the three-match Test series but every game produced result and South Africa won 2-1.
The South African pace battery consisting of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi preyed on Indian batsmen in a series that produced low totals.
England will have their plans set against the Indian batting line-up and that probing line outside the off stump will of course be on the menu.
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India’s best bet at the moment is Virat Kohli, who made his intentions clear with a solid half-century in the warm-up. He endured a torrid time when he toured England in 2014 but has looked a far different and confident batsman since then.
Kohli’s confidence as a batsman is sky high at the moment and it will be up to him to inspire his teammates in the gruelling series.
Kohli will have to be very careful chasing deliveries outside off stump — something he did in 2014 and was caught behind stumps 6 out of 10 innings.
In the warm-up game vs Essex too, Kohli was dismissed chasing an angled delivery bowled by Paul Walter when he edged to first slip for 68.
Opener Murali Vijay made 50 off 113 balls but he was dropped twice — on 6 at the second slip and on 18 at the first slip. Vijay eventually got out when Walter bowled him in the 41st over.
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Another player who has impressed with the bat is KL Rahul. The Karnataka batsman scored 58 off 92 and has looked in sublime touch since coming to England.
It’s a long series and India will have to identify their main men to counter and subdue the England pace attack.
“I believe KL Rahul has to be given all the support and opportunities possible, for he is potentially India’s next successful overseas batsman to partner Kohli with the bat,” Sanjay Manjrekar wrote in his column for ESPNCricinfo.
Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin wants Indian team management to give KL Rahul a chance ahead of out-of-form Pujara.
“KL Rahul is an in-form batsman, he should play in place of Pujara. Rahul is an attacking player and he can score big,” Azharuddin told Sports Tak.
The first Test will be played at Edgbaston from August 1 and that will be followed by Test matches at Lord’s (August 9 to August 13), Trent Bridge (August 18 to August 22), The Rose Bowl (August 30 to September 3) and Kennington Oval (September 7 to September 11).
News credit : Indiatoday