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Leap of faith

After being down and out for three days, India managed a win in Chennai that lifted spirits dramatically and has put them in a position from which they can build something more substantial, reports Anand Vasu .

cricket Updated: Dec 18, 2008 23:12 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
ICC

After being down and out for three days, India managed a win in Chennai that lifted spirits dramatically and has put them in a position from which they can build something more substantial.

While Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that he did not pay too much attention to the ICC rankings, it is a stated ambition of this team to become No. 1 in all forms of the game. Now as they begin the second Test at Mohali, there is a chance for the team to build on their gains. If they can win this game or hold on for a draw, they'll secure a series victory that will show that the win against Australia was no isolated incident.

As always, though, there are stories within stories and the one India will be paying a lot of attention to is Yuvraj Singh. The left-hander's talent has always been unmistakable but he is too good a player to have managed just 24 Tests in the eight years since making his debut. Too many times he has come good, only to slip back in the pecking order and miss out. At 27, he is not getting any younger and this may well be his last chance to ensure that he has a significant Test career. For long, it was Yuvraj's dream to be part of a major stand with Sachin Tendulkar in a winning cause for India. Now that he has achieved that, it is time to move on to the business of cementing a place in the side.

As is often the case with a winning team, India wear a settled look and are unlikely to make any changes to their line-up. The same can't be said of the opposition. Kevin Pietersen revealed that England were still some way from finalising their playing eleven and therefore it should surprise no one if they make changes.

With the pitch being more dry than usual, it would be risky for England to play an all-seam attack although they are believed to be contemplating such a move, bringing Amjad Khan into the team alongside Chris Broad. The situation is also ripe for the out-of-sorts Ian Bell to make way for Owais Shah.

A major factor in India's recent wins at home has been the canny use of reverse swing by both Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan. Although Andrew Flintoff is an experienced exponent of the art he, and England's other bowlers, have found it hard to make the old ball count. The Mohali pitch might be slightly harder than the one at Chennai, and this, combined with the abrasive top surface, might well cause significant scuffing up of the ball. Reverse swing could then play an even bigger part than it did in the first Test.

On the face of it, India are better equipped to adapt to varying conditions. England, who started the tour badly with a loss in a warm-up match against a second string Mumbai team, then suffered five straight ODI losses. They will be desperate to take something positive from the tour and nothing short of a win will do. Dhoni's India will just press forward, trying to make the most of the advantage they have emphatically gathered.