India in England 2014 August 4, 2014

India's return to nets hints at changes


India's first day on a cricket field since the loss at the Ageas Bowl, and what would have been a demoralising verdict for them in the James Anderson hearing, began with a longish huddle at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon. Arms around each other, regrouping after having taken a beating on the field, in the court, and - they certainly believe - in a corridor at Trent Bridge. At one point, fielding coach Trevor Penney could be seen speaking animatedly in the huddle. Others spoke too. Wonder if someone said, "Boys, how the hell do we take 20 wickets here?"

While what happened between Ravindra Jadeja and Anderson remains an issue, India will know you win Test matches by taking 20 wickets or playing teams led by Garry Sobers or Michael Clarke. India have done so only four times in their last 15 away Tests. On three of those four occasions, those 20 wickets have cost India more than their batsmen were able to score. The other successful instance was on this tour, at Lord's, but the two architects of that win - Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar - were out of action on the first day of India's pre-Test training.

During their customary pre-nets footballs game, both Ishant and Bhuvneshwar took up goalkeeping duties. Ishant has been ruled out of fourth Test, MS Dhoni has already said, but Bhuvneshwar, who had a swelling on his ankle, remains a matter of interest. When the nets began, Ishant took up umpiring duties, ironically because he is guilty of bowling more no-balls than most in the world today. Bhuvneshwar bowled a few deliveries gingerly, off a short run, and pulled out in five minutes or so.

Seen from outside, the signs cannot be good: the Test begins on Thursday. However, seeing how India called up replacement for Wriddhiman Saha but not an extra fast bowler - Umesh Yadav is available, for example - the educated guess would be that they are confident of his being fit in time for Old Trafford. That Ishant is still with the team, and that a replacement has not been called for, would mean they are hopeful of his return in time for the Oval Test. The team, however, will not say what the injuries are.

Even if Bhuvneshwar is fit for Old Trafford, India will need a much-improved performance from Mohammed Shami, who has taken five wickets at 73.20 apiece. His economy rate of 3.81, too, has been the worst among specialist bowlers. No specialist bowler's wickets or overs have cost more per unit in this series. However, Shami looked really good at the nets on Monday, bowling at a good pace, repeatedly beating specialist batsmen. M Vijay was hit high on the thigh pads often, Cheteshwar Pujara had his poles uprooted, and Shikhar Dhawan was squared up and beaten around off.

That might not be the only cause for concern for Dhawan, though. For the first time since India reached Nottingham, Gautam Gambhir had a hit pretty early on in the nets. It was a clear sign that Dhawan - after six failures - cannot take his place for granted. India have left open that option of bringing Gambhir in. Gambhir last played a Test for India in early 2012, in Nagpur against England.

Gambhir is not the only option India seem to have left open. R Ashwin, who in the eyes of the experts and public has become a better spinner with every passing day out of the Test team, was more active in the nets than usual. He had a decent bowl at the start, and also got a longish hit with the bat. If he does come in, as almost everyone has demanded by now, he will do so in place of either Jadeja, who looked ineffective at the Ageas Bowl, or Rohit Sharma. Ashwin's last Test was Johannesburg, where he bowled 42 wicketless overs, 36 of those in the second innings.

India have options, and they could prove you wrong, but in the absence of Ishant, this side does not look like one that will take 20 wickets for fewer runs than what their batsmen score. That is one reason that could make India think of stacking their batting up, and retain Rohit. Unless Dhoni looks to bowl that extra bowler for more than 10-12 overs, he will be better off with that specialist batsman at No. 6.

For the first time in the series, you could not tell from India's nets what combination and players they are looking to play. Gambhir and Dhawan netted next to each other. Ashwin and Jadeja bowled with each other. Rohit and Ashwin batted one after the other. Bhuvneshwar did not bowl. Varun Aaron and Pankaj Singh could not be ruled out. You could tell India were not in a desirable situation when it comes to picking the XI, but at least they were back on the field, and laughing and joking at the end of the session.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on August 5, 2014, 17:54 GMT

    Indian team be- vijay, dhawan, pujara, kohli, rahane, dhoni, ashwin, bhuvi, Aaron, ishwar pandey, shami.. inclusive of 4 fast bowlers helps the condition of fast pitch's like brisbane pitch having lot of bounce and fast paced pitch with good carry..let bhuvi bowl short and effective spells of good length swing bowling which he has been doing and can be a more than a batsman not making him over bowl. .Aaron and shami hitting deck hard and in good line length with utmost accurate pace, ishwar pandey with his bounce, swingers and ashwin with offspin, topspin , flight and stock deliveries can trouble left handers esp. India with these changes and kohli , pujara, dhawan mind fully getting in form and supporting rahane and vijay and late blows from bhuvi and ashwin India will look decent team in next match playing to their potential looks slightly edged over England ..hope India wins toss this time..

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2014, 15:40 GMT

    My Selection: 1.Vijay, 2.Pujara, 3.Kohli, 4.Rahane, 5.N.Ojha, 6.Jadeja, 7.Ashwin, 8.Dhoni, 9.Shami, 10.kumar/Pankaj, 11. Pandey/Varun. I prefer Pujara should open along with Vijay. Already i told Rohit not fit for English condition, must sit out Rohit remaining Tests. If India need win, Dhoni handed over to the gloves to ojha and he will concentrate for batting & captaincy.

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2014, 14:33 GMT

    Whether India wins or not is immaterial, but its about the intent which was definitely lacking when Rohit Sharma was picked over a bowler in the third test. It would have been a decent move if this was a third test and India was trying to draw the same and win the test, but in a 5 test series, with the workload bowlers have been facing, it was definitely not the right move. Dhawan has a great future, but right now it will be prudent to replace him by Gambhir. Rohit needs to make way for Ashwin, an extra bowler and a pretty decent bat, chances are he'll bat better then Rohit who is probably in the team owing to Dhoni backing. If Bhuvi is fit, then he needs to be paired alongwith Pankaj and Aaron. But if he goes out, as much as Shami might not be bowling well at all, don't think India will take the risk of a completely new bowling attack with Pandey in. So the team for the 4th test - Gambhir, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Dhoni, Ashwin, Jadeja, Bhuvi/Shami, Pankaj, Aaron.

  • Joseph on August 5, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    How can you drop a young player who has saved you the blushes with a gem of an innings in teh Ist Test and give him a totally raw deal in the next test and drop him like a hot potato . Yes Stewart Binny must be included in the 4th Test . He has been our Lucky charm !

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    as per dhirubhai's team selection 1.gambhir 2.Vijay 3.pujara 4.rohit 5.rahane 6.ojha 7.dhoni 8.jadeja 9.bhuvi 10.shami 11.ishant

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    1> Please give some rest to Dhawan, He must be tired of doing NOTHING, 2> I think Rahane should open along with Vijay. 3> and Gambhir can finally come but in middle order to strengthen the middle order as he is gud player of spin. 4> Give Ashwin a chance, there are 5 left handed batsman in England team.

    So team sud be :

    vijay,rahane,pujara,kohali,gambhir,dhoni,ashwin,sir jadeja, shami, bhuvi/pankaj,ishant/varun

  • Senthilvasan on August 5, 2014, 13:55 GMT

    It's time to think differently folks. Neither Gambhir nor Dhawan will be useful at the top. Open with Ashwin and play Rohit sharma in middle order. Ashwin can bat and he can score 20/30 runs, same as that of Dhawan/Gambhir. If Bhuvi is not fit then Varun Aaron should replace him. Ishwar Pandey's military medium pace is not going to trouble English batsmen. Rahane should bat at No.4, Rohit at 5 and then Kohli at No.6, followed by Dhoni and Jadeja. But I am sure, Indian think tank is not smart enough to think differently and they will go with half-fit Bhuvi and not-fit for swinging conditions Gambhir and lose this test.

  • mahi on August 5, 2014, 13:47 GMT

    My playing XI for next Test: Gambhir, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, dhoni, Binny, Jadeja/Ashwin, Shami, Aron, Pandey

  • shyam on August 5, 2014, 13:28 GMT

    Considering Old Trafford is a fast pitch, I would bring in Aaron for Shami. I would also keep Dhawan because he might enjoy the ball coming on to the bat much nicer on this pitch, if he can get past the opening burst then he will have a good chance. Ashwin should come in for Rohit/Jadeja. The only problem I have with India playing 5 bowlers is that Dhoni will have to bat at number 6 and he isn't a number 6 batsman.

  • Anand on August 5, 2014, 13:25 GMT

    By looking at the team selection for tests by Dhoni,especially in away tests, it is clearly evident that he is choosing bits n pieces players over specialist ones. This will work in ODI format but not in tests. Selecting bits n pieces players,where if a player fails in bowling he will cover up in batting, is a clear indication of defensive strategy and when you play defensive in mind then you tend to loose at the end. Make some changes to the team. Get ghambir in place of Dhawan not that he will play better but we need to try different..Play Rahane at 4 and drop Kohli to 5 this will ease some pressure of Kohli and Rahane has better technique of the two and you need to have best player at 4. Choose bowling who can take wickets not who can bat. Cricket is funny game. there are no favorites before the game. Game is played on the 22 yards and whoever plays better wins. All the best team India.

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