After being hammered by nine wickets in the first Test against India in Ahmedabad, England now has a chance to make amends. To list their wrongs from the first Test would take far too long and be far too obvious. They were outplayed in every department, and coach Andy Flower has admitted that he might have made some selection errors.
Flower said that he had simply misread the pitch and, as a result, second spinner Monty Panesar missed out. The coach was coy on his plans for the second Test, though, and although another batsman will have to be brought in to replace Ian Bell, who is on paternity leave, Flower insists that he will have to look at the deck in Mumbai first before making decisions on who to include in his attack.
Steven Finn is not an option, as he has been ruled out through injury again. Flower does expect a bit more bounce in the Mumbai wicket; the last Test played at the Wankhede Stadium a year ago was a draw, but the spinners had a good day out.
Taking on the West Indies, the Indian spinners walloped their batsmen, sharing 16 of the 20 Windies’ scalps between them. Before that, Wankhede last hosted a Test in 2006 with India taking on England – a match the visitors won. Whether that victory, a combined triumph for several team members, will inspire them to claw their way back into the series remains to be seen.
England will have to dig deep in the second Test, and many of their players will be under serious pressure to perform. Rookie Nick Compton had an unremarkable debut, while Jonathan Trott looked unsettled and Kevin Pietersen, as usual, lost his mind as soon as he was faced with left-arm spin. England is unlikely to make wholesale changes to the team which lost the first Test, but those who remain in the side will have to pull finger if they want to overturn the deficit.
India, meanwhile, is in cruise control, and MS Dhoni had nothing but praise for his team after the first Test. They have to guard against getting overconfident and thinking simply showing up means winning. It’s a problem that often plagues strong teams, and it’ll be India’s biggest challenge if they want to keep the momentum going.
Players to watch
Kevin Pietersen performs best when he is under a bit of pressure, and since he has been “reintegrated” back into the England side, he will be under scrutiny. His performance in the first Test was well below par for a player of his calibre. To do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is, of course, a mark of insanity; and if Pietersen continues to play left-arm spin in such a baffling manner, he might need to be shipped away to get some help from some of the top mental conditioning coaches in England. He’s played just six Tests in India, and he averages a measly 34.90 in those. While it’s hardly a case of ship up or ship out, Pietersen has a heck of a lot to prove.
Pragyan Ojha made his Test debut for India in 2009, and despite collecting 84 wickets in 17 Tests, with an economy rate of 2.70, he has seemingly flown under the radar. The spinner has good variation, but he seems to be somewhat underrated. He’s picked up 72 of his scalps in India at an average of 26.54. He’s a crafty player who can torment and frustrate batsmen no end, and a nine-wicket haul in the first Test was exactly what he needed to catapult his confidence for the rest of the series.
Hot, humid, smoggy and generally unpleasant is what the weather says for the five days of the Test – if you’re English. Fighting the elements is a huge part of cricket in India for touring parties, and while it is still one of the cooler times of the year, it’s awfully unpleasant if you’re out in the field being tonked around all day and you are not used to humidity. Rain is absolutely no bother and if teams play their cards well, there should be a result. DM
Photo: India’s Sachin Tendulkar (R) and Virender Sehwag watch during a cricket practice session in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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