Hyderabad, Jan 29 (PTI) After England tore the prediction books for an epochal 28-run victory here in the first Test, India now find themselves in a tight space, mentally and technically, ahead of the second match starting in four days in Visakhapatnam.
The eternal optimists will trace a similarity in situation to England’s tour to these shores three years ago.
The Three Lions under Joe Root had consigned India to a massive 227-run defeat in Chennai, but after four days Virat Kohli’s side entered the field a reinvigorated lot to level the series at the same Stadium at Chepauk.
But comparisons must end there. On a Chidambaram Stadium pitch that deteriorated incredibly fast, India had the first-mover’s advantage, piling a 329, which formed the core of the hosts’ big win.
Moreover, India had Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant in the middle-order, all who could tackle spin effectively.
None of these three will be in action in Visakhapatnam for different reasons, while Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer, particularly the former, have not inspired much confidence against spinners either.
The word from the coastal Andhra Pradesh town is that the pitch for the second Test might not be entirely different in nature from one used at the RGI Stadium here, and that put the onus squarely on the Indian batters to buckle their swash.
The top brass is not exactly keen on an under-prepared pitch, the one we saw in Ahmedabad during the previous series when Axar Patel scythed through the visitors with an 11-wicket haul. The powers that be have understood the fragility of these set of Indians against spin, and a deck like that might backfire badly on them.
So, it is imperative for the Indian batters to find their range against England spinners, who might also bring in off-spinner Shoaib Bashir, who had reconnected with the rest of the team on Sunday after the visa mess.
“I don’t know what kind of pitch will be there (for the second Test). Whatever it is, they need to regroup quickly as England has smelled the blood. This England side is different from what we saw last time," a former India batter told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
"Under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, England have redefined the approach to Test cricket and they are a bold outfit mentally too, unafraid to take risks. It may bring in some bad results but it also gives them a higher chance of winning.
“So, India cannot afford to take a step back in Vizag and allow them to build a 2-0 lead, from which it will be difficult to come back.” India’s failure was two-fold in Hyderabad. Veterans R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the company of Axar Patel failed to rattle England on a slow-turning pitch, allowing them to pile 420 in the second innings on the back of Ollie Pope’s sensational 196.
When their turn came to chase 231, the Indian batters surrendered to the guiles of left-arm spinner Tom Hartley in the second innings as the debutant walked away with seven wickets.
“The problem with many of these young batters is that they try to dominate spinners playing big hits. But they have to understand that working the ball around for singles or twos are also a way to impose yourself on spinners, a more risk-free method," the former India player said. “Dravid himself was a master at that, so was Laxman. In this side I can only see Kohli doing that despite his discomfort against left-arm spin. You need your wrists and feet against spinners on surfaces that suit them. You just can’t sit back and try to play with hard hands,” he added.
Perhaps, he had Gill in his mind. In the first innings, the right-hander’s patience seemed to have dried up during a 66-ball 23 and slapped Hartley against the spin to Ben Duckett at mid-wicket.
In the second innings, Gill lasted just two balls as he pushed at Hartley with rigid hands to spoon a simple catch to Pope at silly point.
“There is not enough time to change the whole mindset towards batting, but hopefully, they have learnt from their mistakes,” he added. PTI UNG PDS PDS