The cricket world knows India to be poor travellers and during this tour of England too, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys have done little to change the belief. However, back to their base in their ‘favourite’ city London, the Indians appeared to be feeling more at home, their best memory of this tour so far coming here at Lord’s. The fine weather — bright and warm — during their first training session at The Oval also must have helped lift the gloom after back-to-back hammerings.
More than anything else, what would have really lifted their spirits could be the sight of Ishant Sharma the hero of their Lord’s triumph, bowling flat out at the nets. All eyes were on the lanky bowler as he bowled for half an hour. Though the final call on whether he will be fit to last the Test will be taken after Thursday’s nets, the signs were encouraging. Skipper M S Dhoni though wasn’t there to judge.
The other change could be for the allrounder’s spot. It could be a toss-up between Ravindra Jadeja and Stuart Binny. After being dropped at Southampton, the management is weighing the options of bringing back Binny. Although numbers do not speak in his favour, for reasons unexplained, India did well in both the Tests Binny played.
Going by cricketing logic, Jadeja looks a better bet here. The wicket had a generous covering of grass but historically it is known to assist spinners. In fact, Jadeja shouldn’t have been in the 11 at Old Trafford, the fastest track this series. Having picked him and with him failing to live up, now India might make another mistake of actually leaving him out here.
On Wednesday, Binny was among the first batch to pad up and then he had a long bowl. The Karnataka player had played a match-saving innings at Trent Bridge, but was found wanting in the fifth bowlers’ role in both the games. Jadeja on the other hand, played a game-changing cameo in the second innings at Lord’s and except for Southampton, has been effective as a bowler.
India are in a must-win situation are likely to bolster their bowling. However, it will mean extra responsibility on an already struggling top-order, especially Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.
The anxiety showed in the way Kohli batted at the nets. He was compact while taking throw-downs, but looked unconvincing against pacers. He played too many strokes and showed his irritation every time the ball missed the sweet spot. The spinners bore the brunt of his frustration as he went about hammering the slow bowlers from the start.
In contrast, Pujara was serene as usual. His training, involved the same drills, working on his defence and leaving the ball. After the nets, he spent a long time indoors facing the bowling machine.
For England too there was a cause of concern over the fitness of Stuart Broad. The pacer was present at The Oval, but didn’t come out for training. England’s official line was: “Stuart didn’t train but it in no way affects his chances of playing.” However, it appears the hosts may have to change their winning combination. Steve Finn, who had a long go at the nets, is favourite to make a comeback.