In the unforgiving realm of Test cricket, India faces a familiar challenge as they trail in a series yet again. Despite their formidable home record, the ghosts of past deficits linger, with only the 2004 Australian juggernaut managing to turn an early lead into a series victory. The resilience of the Indian team, however, has been showcased through strategic brilliance in Bengaluru and dominance on raging turners in Chennai.
Now, in 2024, the stage is set in Vizag, where the hosts, led by the dynamic duo of captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid, aim to dispel any doubts about their home supremacy. With a squad featuring fewer Test runs than England’s Joe Root, the spotlight is on veteran Ravichandran Ashwin, who stands as both the highest wicket-taker and the second-highest run and century-maker.
As India grapples with a team riding an 18-month wave of success, the challenge intensifies. The clash with England has added intrigue, especially after India’s less-than-sharp performance in Hyderabad. Opportunities were missed, and a stellar innings sealed their fate. Now, the question looms: how will India respond in the follow-up? Imitation could be both a nod of respect and an acknowledgment of shedding inhibitions.
With the second Test scheduled from February 2-6 at the Dr. YSR ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam, the anticipation is palpable. What can we expect? Spin, but not of the extreme kind. The pitch, a black soil wicket with a smattering of dried grass, promises a slow-burn progression reminiscent of the subcontinental style. The challenge lies in navigating the pitch’s quirks and warmer temperatures aiding potential disintegration.
Team news for India revolves around coping with the losses of KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja. Debutants Rajat Patidar or Sarfaraz Khan are expected in the middle-order, adding an element of unpredictability. With a potential return of Kuldeep Yadav into the Test XI, India aims for a balanced lineup. On the other side, England faces challenges with Jack Leach’s absence and the inclusion of tall off-spinner Shoaib Bashir.
As the stage is set for a tantalizing clash, key players like Ravichandran Ashwin, Rohit Sharma, and Joe Root hold the key to the outcome. Will India protect their proud home record, or will England capitalize on early success? Only time will tell in this high-stakes battle in Vizag.
Probable Playing XIs:
- India: Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Rajat Patidar, Axar Patel, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj/Washington Sundar
- England: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir, James Anderson
- Ravichandran Ashwin aims for 500 Test wickets.
- Sarfaraz Khan boasts a first-class average of 69.85, potentially one of the highest among Indian debutants.
- Recent England spinners – Will Jacks, Rehan Ahmed, and Tom Hartley – all claimed five-fers in their debut Tests.
- “Batting is always about scoring runs. It’s not about not getting out but how many runs you put on the board.” – Vikram Rathour on India’s approach after the Hyderabad implosion.
- “Bringing Jimmy’s experience, the class that he has, is great, and I think it also goes under the radar how good his record in India is.” – Ben Stokes on James Anderson’s return to the playing XI.