It’s a do or die situation for India

It’s a do or die situation for India

TOUGH NUT: Skipper Virat Kohli appeared in no visible discomfort during India’s practice session on Friday. Reuters

Facing a barrage of criticism back home, a skipper putting out an earnest plea on social media requesting the fans to stand by the embattled team and a coach asking his wards to show ‘character and discipline’ — it is quite evident this Indian team is in dire straits. 

Things are just going to get a lot more meaner for Virat Kohli and his beleaguered comrades as a pumped up and full-strength England attempt to retain the Pataudi Trophy with a victory in the third Test that kicks off at Trent Bridge here on Saturday.

If India wish to challenge England, who hold a 2-0 lead in the series and also have been enjoying a good run at this historic venue over the last decade, their batsmen will have to overturn their pathetic form. But the problem is this surface is made for pacers, who collectively hold an average of 25.67 against 49.51 of spinners since 2010. With cloudy weather forecast for Saturday and rain for the day after, there’s little doubt on who will continue to call the shots on this track. 

James Anderson, needing one more wicket to complete 100 scalps against India, has been in vintage form, while his pace partner Stuart Broad, who will be playing in his home ground, has lots of happy memories of this place. With Ben Stokes returning to playing XI after being cleared by a Bristol court and Chris Woakes, man of the match at Lord’s, to start again, the English attack wears a menacing look.     

Apart from having to confront such a hostile pace attack, the Indian batsmen will also be worried about their places in the side as the squad for the final two Tests will be announced after this game. Another flop show could see the selectors wield the axe on some underperforming seniors and the Board asking Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri some tough questions.

In a bid to stem the tide, India will most likely make at least two changes — one to bolster the batting and the other to give a new dimension to the bowling. Young Rishabh Pant, who did all the drills a first choice wicketkeeper would do ahead of the game, is the favourite to take the gloves from Dinesh Karthik and earn a Test debut.

The 20-year-old, who enjoyed a good IPL and is known in the domestic circuit for his attacking prowess, could add that dash of explosiveness to the batting line-up it has been desperately craving for. Giving him a go in the next three games will also help India in their search for Wriddhiman Saha’s successor.

Jasprit Bumrah, having bowled a lot in the nets at Lord’s and here, has been widely tipped to return and the Baroda pacer should take the place of chinaman Kuldeep Yadav. Bumrah has been just a traveller with the team since injuring his thumb during the Ireland T20I game and he would be itching to have an outing in the middle.

India should seriously consider playing an extra batsman in place of the underwhelming Hardik Pandya. Kohli has always believed in playing five bowlers, the idea of seven batsmen perceived as  defensive. The skipper though said the team is exploring at an option of playing an extra batsman in case they are greeted with a spicy track.  

India will not find it easy but they have to find their way out of the hole else England will gladly shut the lid on them.

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