India vs England 2016: Test cricket couldn't have found a better advert
The Indian caravan rolls to Mohali, up north India from Vizag in down south, much like a well-oiled juggernaut lately, after a tiny hiccup endured in Rajkot, whereas the travelling Englishmen's caravan, may well resemble a jolted and stumbled run, with the wheels threatening to come off in Vizag, after their heroic display in Rajkot, which sadly for them looks a bit distant now.
Cricket is, after all, a cruel sport. They will also get a taste of the diverse culture that India boasts about in all aspects, and will be fervently hoping that the pitch by Daljit Singh won't be like the one that they faced in Vizag, where they were trounced by 246 runs, two runs lesser than what Virat Kohli mustered as an aggregate, i.e, 248, which contained another huge ton.
The Proteas incidentally encountered a diabolically prepared deck during their campaign last December, when the Test match then lasted barely three days, with Ashwin and Jadeja swamping them with fifers! India's test match supremacy was scripted in that series.
The trepidation in the visitors ranks is palpable that, in ten days, the buoyancy garnered after Rajkot has swiftly gone the pole opposite direction to one of panic as the deadly duo of Ashwin, who registered his first fifer versus England and Virat Kohli, in his favourite venue, combined like a "house on fire" to engulf the pliable tourists on a wearing deck.
Orchestrating two self-inflicted meltdowns, against India's rich spin in a Test makes it easy for the opponents and a team like India, at home, won't look at gift horses in the mouth! It is not as if the English did not try, but the sudden snatches of freezing panic and lack of intent, rendered India's job, relatively less tough.
To reckon English batting collapses to a domino effect would be to be economical with the truth! Prime example is that of young Ben Duckett. He suffers, not so much from a lack of ability, as against a bigger peril of a frozen mentality, that is unable to produce the answers to the searching exam conducted by the Indian spinners with cobwebs of doubts obscuring his vision.
Young Duckett's spot may well be taken by either Buttler or Ballance, who sadly don’t possess inspiring records in Asia. Such is their plight and more is the pity!
Broad's foot injury, which did not deter his brave spell on the fourth morning at Vizag, could not have come at a worse time for them, aggravating the sudden mire. A shattering blow, and he may well be replaced by the luckless and well-rested Woakes in hopefully a greener and salubrious healthy climes of Mohali, after its abundant monsoon.
Anderson has proved that his rest has not resulted in rust, as he ran in zealously like the champion he is. Ansari, another weak link, may get the boot and the visitors may well play another quickie(Finn), as Mohali, if true to reputation, has a history of assisting seam bowling.
Virat Kohl's love affair with the toss continued and as seasoned players will tell you, toss is a mere spin of the coin and by itself doesn't guarantee anything. Ideally, one would infer with stats thrown in as a good measure, that batting fourth as "visiting tourists" is not ideal in these pitches, as in fact, both the teams found out in the space of two tests over a fortnight.
Much as Virat 's contrasting innings would have given his self and the team a lot of heart in the course of two Tests, the tiny slump in form of the consistent Rahane, will be a tiny irritant, akin to a small pebble in the shoe for India, as like his mentor, Rahul Dravid, his away record compared to home is far too impressive.
Pujara's purple patch at the top has stemmed the top order collapses and the impressive debut of all-rounder young Jayant Yadav cockled many an Indian heart, least of all mine.
During my stint with Haryana in the years gone by, as a professional, found him eager, full of beans and quick on the uptake. It will be a great shame, should he be benched for the fit again Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, as the pitch assists pace traditionally.
Normally, when teams play five regular bowlers, the fifth, the less fabled, gets under bowled as Amit Mishra found out in placid and benign Rajkot. Jayant Yadav, by making the most of the littlest opportunity accorded, showed he belonged, taking to Test match scene like the proverbial duck to water.
He may well be preferred ahead of a relatively less red hot Jadeja, given England boasts of several lefthanders, and Jadeja may be off colour with the bat too. A happy problem to have for the Indian team management, enjoying an embarrassment of riches, as stark news percolates that Saha is injured and is replaced by Parthiv Patel, who at 31, makes a comeback after Test match hibernation of 8 years, preferred for his left-handed skills as a bat, one understands.
The English cupboard of replacements is wafer thin, as they scour the bottom in terms of replacement batsmen! The emergence of "Baby Boycs" Hameed, who has shown by his blood and guts, stonewalling technique that rewards in terms of runs and setting a stall up as a batsman, can be made in India with a clear head, and a big ticker, evidenced in seasoned Cook, and Root.
The pressure on Cook and Root to perform in every inning must be hanging on their necks like the sword of Damocles, more so in these conditions. Even an inveterate supporter of the duo would reckon it as a distinct longshot and sooner they get help from others, lesser their woes would be, mitigating India's intensity.
India, with their bases suitably covered, pace duo Shami and Umesh Yadav, included too, with crafty air speed and reverse swing and timely wicket bursts, look to go 2 nil up ,but England may well look back on a similar plight which enveloped them in the past, have reasons to feel inspired by looking at the positives of their preceding two Tests. Can they create enough chances to look to beat India?
Whatever else, with both games going into the fifth day, Test cricket could not have found a better advert, and team India, by faring well, thus far in this lengthy home season, have announced to the world that they can win despite not tweaking with the pitch, thereby forgoing a veritable home advantage.
A new template to win has been engineered by quelling the opponents, elements and themselves too, by not succumbing to the temptation of designer pitches. A rare trait. Long may it continue in cricket's interests.