Strip tease for India, England!

23 February,2024 06:21 AM IST |  Ranchi  |  Sandipan Banerjee

Adding to the intrigue of a possibly series-deciding Test at Ranchi’s JSCA Stadium is a cracked brown pitch. While the hosts believe it’s a typical Indian track, English skipper Ben Stokes insists he has seen nothing like it in this country previously

India coach Rahul Dravid (top) does the same. Pics/PTI

As MS Dhoni's hometown Ranchi gears up to host its third Test match, the Indian think-tank is banking on the "balance" of their versatile squad and on a surface with "enough cracks" to hand England its first series defeat in the so-called Bazball era.

Going into the fourth Test of this ongoing five-match series, the English camp have already raised a few eyebrows looking at the 22 yards of the JSCA Stadium here. The pitch seems to have a few cracks running down one side, just outside a right-hander's off-stump at one end and a left-hander's off-stump at the other. When asked about it at the match-eve press conference, England skipper Ben Stokes said, "I've never seen something like that before. I don't know what could happen. If you looked down one side of opposite ends it just looked different to what I am used to seeing, especially out in India. It looked green and grassy up in the changing rooms, but when you go out there it looked different - very dark and crumbly and quite a few cracks in it."

Members of the England (left) and India camps (right) check out the JSCA Stadium pitch yesterday

However, rubbishing any pitch chatter, India batting coach Vikram Rathour termed it as a "typical Indian wicket."

‘Can't say when it will turn'

A smiling Rathour said: "Every time we play in India, there's a question mark on the pitch. It's a typical Indian wicket. There are cracks, this wicket always had cracks. It will turn, but how much it will turn and from when, we are not sure. But we have enough balance in our team."

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However, the balance of this Indian team has been hampered with ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah not available for this fixture. Explaining the circumstances, Rathour said it was not "advisable" to play Bumrah four matches on the trot, especially after the kind of workload (80.5overs in three Tests, taking 17 wickets at an average of 13.64) he had handled so far in this series which India lead 2-1.

"Even we would love Bumrah to play all the games, but unfortunately that's not very advisable because of the kind of workload he has had in the last three games," the former India opener said.

Team India backing Patidar

The Indian team recently called upon Karnataka's Devdutt Padikkal as a back-up batter in the squad. And following a dismal show by Rajat Patidar at No. 4 in the last two Tests, there has been some talk doing the rounds about a possible change in the playing XI. However, the team's think-tank is keen to back Patidar. "He [Patidar] has scored a lot of runs to get into the team and doesn't become a bad player from two matches. He has had a few tough games, a few awkward dismissals where the ball has stopped on him. This can
happen. This is how the game goes," said Rathour.

On Thursday, the Indian team had a light training session with only six players - Shubman Gill, R Ashwin, Akash Deep (only batted), Devdutt Padikkal, Washington Sundar and KS Bharat - turning up for it. Meanwhile, the ground experienced a few drops of rain in the afternoon when England were having their practice session. There are chances of some passing showers during the afternoon sessions of Day Three and Five of the Test.

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