Though India drew first blood in the four-Test series against England with a comfortable nine-wicket win at Ahmedabad on Monday, UK based-Farokh Engineer does not rule out a strong English backlash in the remaining three Tests. The former India stumper, currently in Mumbai, opened up to MiD DAY yesterday.
Excerpts from an interview:
What do you make of India’s victory in the first Test at Ahmedabad?
India deserved to win that Test. It was a good toss to win. Virender Sehwag gave a blistering start. Cheteshwar Pujara played a superb knock. Pujara showed India will not really miss Rahul Dravid. He is a good find for the No 3 spot. I am impressed with his patience and technique.
England surprisingly didn’t adapt to the wicket. Skipper Alastair Cook and Matt Prior showed how to apply themselves, especially in the second innings. The English batsmen were allowing the ball to turn. I am sure English coaches will notice these things. Graham Gooch (England batting coach) was a good sweeper of the ball and he must have told them to do the same. But that is not the only way to tackle spinners because there are chances of getting a top edge. Sweep is always a dangerous shot when there is uneven bounce.
Ojha bowled well, but I expected Ashwin to get more (than four) wickets. Probably the batsmen have learnt to play him. I think it was more in the mind for the English cricketers. They expected the wicket to turn a lot, but it didn’t. It wasn’t an underprepared wicket. It was a good Test wicket.
How do you think England will fare in the second Test at Wankhede?
There were lessons to be learnt for England from the first Test. It wasn’t the case that we have an exceptional spinner. We had a straightforward off-spinner (Ashwin) and a left-arm spinner (Ojha). England have to apply well. Their batting will be more resolute in the coming Tests. They are professionals and learn things quickly. Graeme Swann and James Anderson are world-class bowlers. They will certainly bounce back strongly. Bell and Pietersen are very good players of spin.
Is it right for India to rely too much on their spinners?
By now, England would have figured out what went wrong for them in the first Test. Traditionally, Indian pitches suit spinners. We are not preparing any green tops either. So, Dhoni has to rely on spinners to take wickets.
What do India need to do now?
India has to do the same things they did for the first Test. They should not change the winning combination. You have to chop and change the plans as per the situation. The only thing that can let India down is complacency. If Dhoni or any member of the team gets complacent, thinking they will win 4-0, it’s a dangerous sign.
How much of last year’s 0-4 whitewash would be playing on Indian minds?
It won’t and it shouldn’t because that happened in England where the ball moves. The revenge factor should be removed from Dhoni’s mind. You take it as it comes.
Will pacers have a role in this series?
Zaheer Khan is a top-class bowler. He should be very effective on the Wankhede pitch. The wind factor will also help him. Both teams are evenly balanced. It’s just that England lost the first match in the mind. They were thinking about the ball turning from Day One.
Dhoni wants the pitch to turn from Day One. Your comment?
I wouldn’t agree with that. Surely, every country would like to make the most of their home advantage. But you just can’t go and prepare a wicket that will turn from Day One. You wouldn’t like to make a mockery of the game. Dhoni has a point, but this (Ahmedabad) track was turning from the first afternoon itself. It could also misfire as Graeme Swann is a world-class spinner and he can easily trouble our batsmen.
Can you predict the final scoreline?
I would love to see a whitewash, but England are a very difficult side. We should not underestimate them. I think it will be 3-1 in India’s favour.