Sarfaraz Khan or Rajat Patidar or maybe, both in India vs England 2nd Test | Crickit

India vs England 2nd Test: Sarfaraz Khan or Rajat Patidar or maybe, both

Feb 01, 2024 09:27 PM IST

Forced changes mean India will have a debutant but could they have more than one?

On the whiteboard outside the India nets on Thursday were scribbled the names of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan and Dhruv Jurel. But soon enough Shubman Gill too joined, getting a good stride into most of his shots. Using his feet to greater effect was Jaiswal, often skipping down the crease to spinners. Khan took his time sussing up the conditions, padded up, chatted with Patidar for a while before almost nonchalantly taking apart the net bowlers. This, in a session, was India’s future trying to gain a toehold into the present. No Virat Kohli and no KL Rahul means an unprecedented expectation to perform at home when India need them most, and yet there was an air of calm around them.

India's Sarfaraz Khan (C) and Rajat Patidar (R) attend a practice session at the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam(AFP)
India's Sarfaraz Khan (C) and Rajat Patidar (R) attend a practice session at the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam(AFP)

It almost prompted fond recollections of 2021, when India were forced to make changes at Gabba with almost half the squad walking wounded. That win was the coming of age of Rishabh Pant but also gave us Gill and a glimpse of a complete allrounder in Washington Sundar. Is this then, another chance to unearth a new character? There will be a new No 5 after Jaiswal, Rohit Sharma, Gill and Shreyas Iyer. And by logic, Patidar should get a debut. And for good reason as well.

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Throughout the Ranji Trophy and then for India ‘A’, Patidar has been a dependable name. The defence is compact, his strokes have flair and he can easily slip into adventurous mode as and when required. More importantly, having spent more time in the squad and rubbed shoulders with the seniors, Patidar—at 30—is primed for the spot. But Khan doesn’t make the selection easy. With 3912 runs from 45 first-class matches at an average of 69.85 with 14 hundreds and 11 fifties, Khan was always too good to not play for India.

“My strength is that I am not easily satisfied,” Khan said in an interview to JioCinema. “I play 500-600 balls every day. If I don't play at least 200-300 balls in a match, I feel like I haven't done much. It's a habit now. If you want to play five-day cricket, you have to stay patient and practice every day. I play cricket all day and that's why I can stay on the pitch for a long time.” That last line could probably be make or break for Khan. In light of the collapse at Hyderabad, India need a specialist batter to just drop anchor and fight a crisis till the moment is right to break free.

Patidar is steady too, but minus the belligerence. One of the reasons Madhya Pradesh have moved up the tiers in Ranji Trophy is Patidar’s appetite for runs, which he has been able to replicate for India A as well, racking up scores of 111 and 151 in the last two matches against England Lions. That confidence reflected at the nets, where Patidar was using the crease masterfully to get into different positions for corresponding shots. Some looked premeditated, but he was equally good at playing spin off the pitch by going on his backfoot. That, and an established hierarchy within the squad, means Patidar should get the nod ahead of Khan.

Unless of course India court the possibility of picking Patidar and Khan and drop Mohammed Siraj who bowled only 11 overs at Hyderabad. With England picking only one seamer in James Anderson, there’s no reason India do the same and stick to only Jasprit Bumrah here. The only line of thought that might interfere with this approach is who takes over if Bumrah is unable to bowl for some reason. But that’s a big if, and right now India may be inclined to boost their batting instead.

Sundar should walk in if India are ready to punt one seamer, and given how he had contributed at the Gabba—scoring a first-innings reviving 62 and taking four wickets overall—it remains a very tempting combination. Plus, it gives an all-round option and India can still have five bowlers after picking Patidar or Khan. Patidar or Khan, Kuldeep or Sundar, or maybe go with all four—Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid have a lot to figure out before play begins on Friday.

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