And so to Mohali. There seems little need to write a preview for this test match, because many people believe that the course of the match will be determined half an hour before the first ball is bowled. The consensus appears to be if India win the toss they will win, and if they lose the toss they’ll probably win. England have got themselves in the usual mindset, a bipolar existence we’ve seen too often in the past. One week (Rajkot) we are a bunch of world beaters, punching above our weight, batting beautifully, putting pressure on India, and the next we are a bunch of plucky underdogs, out of our depth, but fighting the unremitting odds presented us by losing the toss.
Ben Duckett has paid the price for losing in Vizag, and bowling three spinners may also bite the dust, but with Stuart Broad’s injury, it may also survive . Now England will be going in with Moeen up one spot, and Jos Buttler batting at seven, while Chris Woakes comes in for Stuart Broad. Will Ansari lose his place given the less than thunderous applause his 2nd Test performance garnered from the attendant press hordes (to be fair, it wasn’t Zafar’s best game)? It looks likely.
On Broad, I have to say what Cook said made me really concerned that this attitude is allowed to stand. Broad showed amazing amounts of resolve to bowl with a sore tendon. I’ve had achilles tendonitis and it is agony. So to bowl with it is a great credit to his powers of resolve. But was it really wise? Really? Careers end on decisions to play on with quite nasty injuries.
Cook also had warm words for Broad, who produced an exceptional spell on the fourth morning in Visakhapatnam despite a foot injury. “You wouldn’t know that his foot was as bad as it was,” Cook said. “But the specialist’s advice is that there is a risk of it going totally and he would then be out for a period of time
“They were quite surprised how well he got through those four-and-a-half days after doing it in the third or fourth over of the match. If he played here and did more damage to the tendon in the second over then you’d look stupid.”
“There’s a risk of it going totally…” let those words sink in. Ruptured tendons aren’t five minute injuries.No-one ever questioned Broad’s commitment. But if someone else is on the brink of serious damage, don’t criticise them if they don’t play. Don’t say their card is marked. Don’t say they are fragile. Don’t put out press briefings to say that they aren’t committed and/or their injury can’t get any worse. Arguably Mark Wood is still rehabbing because he was playing through pain, or playing with a risk of serious injury. Sports stars want to play, but sometime they need saving from themselves. Broad has been top notch on this tour so far, against past form, but there’s a need for sense out there. I know some might say “I’m sure they know better than you, Dmitri” and they are right, but that’s not to say that I’m not. Let’s hope for the best.
India have also made a change, and that is behind the stumps. Parthiv Patel makes a return to the test team. Parthiv made his debut as a 17 year old at Trent Bridge in 2002, and has played one test in the last 12 years, falling behind the towering presence of MS Dhoni. His recall, as a 31 year old, maybe a little bit surprising as Rishabh Pant, a 19 year old phenom, is scoring mountains of runs in the Ranji Trophy (four centuries, including a 308), but the Indians are putting weight on experience over youth. The sorts of scores Pant is getting would have a campaign being run in England for him, so it shows some of the depth behind the front line. Parthiv made 139 not out against Madhya Pradesh just over a week ago, so knows where the middle of his bat is at present. Other than that, India look a little more settled, although another poor test from the sublimely talented Ajinkya Rahane may have the home journos mumbling.
As usual, there will be plenty of debate about the wicket. Let’s take a look at the match played at Mohali recently.
Quite a well balanced match with Delhi, being quite a strong team on paper, making a decent score (and Gambhir making a ton, which probably got him selected!)
England’s record there isn’t crash hot. Mohali wasn’t on the 2012 rota, but it was on the preceding three tours. KP’s 144 helped avert a tricky position in the 2nd test in 2008/9, but we were well beaten there in 2006, being “Kumbled” who took 9 wickets in a game that was quite even at halfway. We were given a sound beating in 2001 too, losing by 10 wickets in the first test in that series. Interesting that we batted first in both the two losses, and batted second in the draw!
Enough for now. A decision on whether we play three spinners (Batty would replace Ansari) or another seamer (Jake Ball) will be made tomorrow. Until then, as the good men say… Comments below on Day 1’s play.