India vs England: Rohit Sharma has a lot on his plate in scenic Vizag
Injuries to key players, lean Test run of Gill and Iyer major headaches for hosts looking to bounce back
The calming effect of the sea in Vizag may provide a welcome change of setting for both hosts India and England, but it can hardly distract Rohit Sharma, who has too much on his plate ahead of the second Test. A humiliating loss in Hyderabad, the uncertainty over the availability of Virat Kohli and injuries to two key players — K.L. Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja — have truly compounded his woes.
Add to this the abysmal form of Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer over the last 10 Test matches, something which can really put a spanner in the works as the hosts seek to bounce back in the series. There are four Tests still to go despite the 1-0 score line, and India did turn things around against England after a defeat in the first Test in the 2021 series, but youngsters Ollie Pope and debutant Tom Hartley seem to have dented India's confidence.
Stumper K.S. Bharat, who addressed India’s press conference on the eve of the Test instead of Rohit Sharma or coach Rahul Dravid, struck a positive note, however. ‘’We are good at bouncing back after losing the first Test, so as a team we’re looking to do well. England won in Hyderabad. Pope played well, and some of the sweeps and reverse sweeps their guys played were impressive. Credit where it’s due. They deserved to win. But like I said, we have bounced back previously as well so yeah, looking forward to this next challenge,’’ Bharat said.
Rajat Patidar is poised to make his Test debut for India, with expectations that Gill and will deliver too. The defeat last week has pushed India down to no. 5 on the World Test Championship (WTC) table, but it’s too early to jump to conclusions.
‘’After the game (in Hyderabad), the atmosphere is absolutely relaxed. Both Rohit and Rahul Dravid asked us not to panic. The instruction is very clear that it’s a long Test series and we have played such series in the past. And we as individuals have to focus on good things. Things that we want to try, which we want to implement. We just want to play good cricket. That's the message from the captain and the coach,’’ added Bharat.
Meanwhile, England’s rookie spinner Shoaib Bashir is expected to get the nod, with skipper Ben Stokes saying he wasn’t flown in "just to gain experience". There is a forecast of cloudy conditions through the Test match, but the deck is expected to be dry, similar to what was offered in Hyderabad. One can expect a slow turner in Vizag as well, which could turn out to be a little frustrating for batters.
England opener Zak Crawley, however, reckons that the track looks a little greener than Hyderabad and could assist the seamers a little more through the day.
Vikram Rathour, India’s batting coach, has asked everyone to be a little patient with Gill and Iyer, but that could run out very soon if the duo once again fail to take responsibility. Without the insurance of Rahul and Jadeja, it could actually be a golden opportunity for the two to rise to the occasion.
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India vs England
Second Test, Visakhapatnam
Match starts at 9.30 am IST