Frustrate them and create pressure that can lead to mistakes — that’s Darren Gough’s prescription for the England quicks who will be up against the Virat Kohlis and Cheteshwar Pujaras in the upcoming four-Test series against India, beginning February 5 in Chennai.
“Some strange tactics have been used against Indian batsmen in the past by both England and Australia. Now, with (Stuart) Broad and (James) Anderson in the side, they should frustrate someone like Rohit Sharma and try and create pressure, which leads to mistakes. (Shubman) Gill is another player who likes to play on the up, so change of pace can work against him. England bowlers will mix it up lots, depending on the wickets.
“As for Kohli, Anderson should just try and do the same as he had done in previous games (versus India). Kohli is a good driver of the ball, so I think you will find Jimmy and the other quicks attack his off stump and looking to nip it back with the odd ball holding its line, hoping he misses,” the former England pace spearhead told The Telegraph from Buckinghamshire on Thursday.
But continuously bowling an off-stump line may not be the best way to go about, Gough feels. “I’ve never been a fan of off-stump lines or channels. You bowl to get a batsman out and need to find ways of doing so on flat wickets.
“You also have to get the right field settings, which we saw from Joe Root in Sri Lanka,” he said.
England have their task cut out in terms of selecting the best XI as well, Gough believes, adding that Moeen Ali should feature in their scheme of things although both Dom Bess and Jack Leach did a decent job in Sri Lanka.
“England can unleash both Jofra Archer and (Ben) Stokes as the other strike bowlers alongside Broad and Anderson. But with conditions in India favouring spin, one way could be bringing Moeen back in the XI.
“Moeen is a better spinner, adds strength with his batting and is a good fielder too.
“Mind you, if England get runs in the first innings, they will be a very, very dangerous side. Even if it’s a turner, they will make it difficult for India,” Gough emphasised.
Pointing out that Archer’s two away tours so far — to New Zealand and South Africa — haven’t been too good, Gough stressed the need to make him bowl in the right areas in India instead of trying to blast batsmen out.
“I thought Jofra wasn’t used in the right way in those two tours. He has natural pace, so get him to bowl in the right areas, he’ll pick up wickets.
“It’s a big tour for him. And if he finds it difficult again, there’ll be questions asked,” Gough said.
On India speedsters
Facing India’s fast bowlers too will be a massive challenge for the English batsmen, Gough acknowledged, heaping praises on Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and the likes.
“Ishant is quick enough and can move the ball both ways, which is a tremendous skill to have. In this current climate around world cricket, if you can move the ball both ways, you’re going to take a lot of wickets. And Ishant has cashed in on that.
“As for Bumrah, whenever I’ve been picking my all format world XI, he’s the first name on my sheet. Short run-up, awkward action makes it difficult to score runs off him and he can move the ball both ways even with that action.
“To talk of Siraj, at this stage of his career, to go and play against Australia in their backyard and stand up with a huge heart with everything he has been through, you just got to pat him on the back and say, ‘If this kid plays, he won’t let India down’,” Gough signed off.