India vs England Mohali Test: Joe Root is England's Virat Kohli
Visiting team's No. 3 batsman's precise footwork, smart use of hands and an intelligent mind have impressed all who enjoy old-fashioned Test batting
England's Joe Root plays football during a training session at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali yesterday. Pic/AFP
Chandigarh is a thoughtfully manicured union territory curated by celebrated French architect Le Cobusier. The weather will be crisp and English at this time of the year — familiar atmospheric conditions for England after a disappointing Test match at Visakapatnam.
The toss again, needless to say, will be decisive. Historically, the IS Bindra Stadium at Mohali has a true pitch but that would be wishful thinking and pleasantly surprising if I were Captain Cook. England can look back at the last two Test matches and build from their strength, their batting. Predictably, young Ben Duckett will miss out, but not without learning from his truncated innings in this series.
India know what to expect from Alastair Cook, the batsman. No frills, no thrills but occupation of the crease in an effort to grind the opposition is his forte. His early departure becomes so important for the morale of the Indian bowling attack that scalping him early is so critical for the pulse of the game to be in India's favour.
Cook's 10,895 runs with 30 Test hundreds didn't happen by default. One needs to be a player with special skills to be up there. In Mumbai, there is an often used term for Cook's tribe — 'Langar' as in anchor, but in Cook's case it is 'MahaLangar' (The heavy anchor). The English Titanic batting doesn't need Capt Edward Smith but Captain Cook to be as obstinate as he can be to keep the pressure on India.
Cream on strawberry
Joe Root is a cream on the strawberry of a talented positive batting line-up. I haven't seen too many English touring batsmen over the years bat to score runs rather than occupy the crease. His precise footwork, smart use of hands and an intelligent batting mind have impressed all who enjoy old fashioned Test batting. Root is to England what Virat Kohli is to India — crucial, integral and positive. If the pitch holds up, Root could shape the path of this Test match.
England's robust middle
Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali have been strong robust middle order lieutenants who will support Cook and Root, but it is important they are given the freedom to play to their strengths. Sometimes, conditions and match situations can hamper natural instincts. England's best chance is if these three are oblivious of external conditions and just flex their natural instincts.
The weather in Mohali will provide a spring in the steps of Messrs Anderson and Broad. Eight hundred thirty three Test wickets between them is not a measly number. Every opposition, India included, will have reason to worry if the ball darts around.
The spinners Moeen Ali, Zafar Ansari and Adil Rashid have been honest and industrious. They have tried hard to use conditions to the best of their abilities. I see them as menacing only if England can accumulate an imposing score and the scoreboard pressure can intimidate the Indian batting. That is why it makes the realisation of the English batting so very crucial.
India's batting worries
India have a few problem areas in their batting. KLâÂÂRahul has had two failures, and that is stored in the England camp's hard disk. Ajinkya Rahane is not is the best of rhythm which makes the middle order that much rickety in case the in-form Pujara and Kohli go early.
Wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel got surprise call-up. To get back into Test match groove takes time as we have seen with Rahul's comeback. These are concerns India will have as much as they can take a lot from the bowling form and fitness of all their bowlers. The million rupee question (and we are talking post-demonetisation — new notes only) is if the pitch will be dry and arid or the quintessential Mohali surface that offers a chance to bat and ball. Only curator Daljit Singh could have an answer to at this stage.
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