Virat Kohli in a lively mood, on Wednesday
Calcutta/Manchester: A thrashing at Southampton, and then a blow from the International Cricket Council in the Anderson-Jadeja case — Team India need to get over the double whammy and reassert themselves in the series.
The five-Test series stands level at 1-1, and as Mahendra Singh Dhoni lead his men out at Old Trafford on Thursday morning for the fourth Test, he would want to draw inspiration from their victory at the Lord’s in the second Test, rather than what had followed.
India may look at a couple of changes. Opener Gautam Gambhir and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin may make the final eleven, as Shikhar Dhawan’s poor form and Rohit Sharma’s atrocious shot selection have made the team think-tank cautious about them.
Old Trafford is tipped to have the quickest pitch seen so far in the series, but the lead-up to the Test has been wet. The forecast for the first day, however, is fair. But it may get worse as the Test progresses.
With the series at a critical juncture, it begs for a strategic rethink. Rohit’s inconsistency has let the team down at crucial junctures, specially with his poor shot-selection in the third Test. It can also be argued that a fifth bowler there might have made a huge difference, especially if he was a spinner.
The case for Ashwin to play his first Test of the series couldn’t be stronger. Not only can he be a dependable spin option, he also has two Test hundreds to his name. He is also a safe pair of hands at slips.
Dhawan’s poor from may just open the door again for Gambhir. Another change that Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher may have to do is bring in Varun Aaron in the place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is working hard to be fully fit. If Bhuvneshwar can be retained in the team, chances are that the axe may fall on Pankaj Singh, who made his debut in the last Test.
What perhaps is worrying captain Dhoni a lot more is the form, or lack of it, of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. A lot of expectations are there on these two, but in this tour they have not been able to deliver.
The captain, naturally, is aware that taking wickets matter. “Taking 20 wickets is very important to win a Test,” he said on Wednesday. With Ishant Sharma injured, Bhuvneshwar tiring, Mohammed Shami averaging 73.20 for five wickets, Pankaj Singh luckless, and Ravindra Jadeja being outbowled by Moeen Ali, the lack of depth on India’s bench has been exposed.
Meanwhile, England are settling down well in the series, having got over the loss at Lord’s. Specially for captain Alastair Cook the victory could not have come at a better time.
India (likely): Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan/Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron/Pankaj Singh.
England (likely): Alastair Cook, Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan/Steve Finn, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
Match starts: 3.30 pm (IST).