Looking in the past is a good way to predict future, for that’s where you find hidden (or at times, blatant) signs of what to expect. Therefore it won’t be a bad idea for India and England to look at Vizag and Rajkot for both an inspiration and a reality check. In both games, the team that won the toss dominated the match. The pitch in Rajkot was a bit too flat and that’s why England couldn’t pull off a result. On the contrary, the pitch in Vizag deteriorated at a much faster rate, not alarmingly fast though, and therefore we got a result on the fifth afternoon.
India’s success story in the recent past is built around a simple theory—put enough runs on the board to allow Ashwin and co. to weave their magic. The fact that Kohli has lost only one toss at home has made his team’s job a little easier. In addition to his luck with the toss, his form with the bat has helped the team battle the tough phases.
Vizag’s debut Test match saw India drawing first blood in this five-Test series but for me the highlights of the match lay somewhere else and not in the final result.
On the fourth morning of the Test, Broad bowled an inspired spell of high quality seam bowling. He was visibly in pain (limped his way back to the top of the run-up) and still gave everything to his bowling spell. Indian conditions can be quite harsh on the fast bowlers because of lack of help on the pitch (both in terms of grass and moisture) and the hot/humid weather that drains you quickly, and that’s why Broad’s spell will be remembered for a long time. Using the fingers to assist the wrist is a forgotten art and Broad displayed why it should not be, for when there’s no help in the air or from the pitch, you can roll your fingers slightly to get the right response. He was also hitting the deck hard to extract disconcerting bounce, which accounted for Rahane’s dismissal. The best coaching lessons come from the playing field and watching a re-run of his spell is a must for all aspiring young fast bowlers across the globe.
Kohli’s Batting Master class
To counter Broad’s skills, India needed someone with similar pedigree. Fortunately, Kohli was, once again, in the heart of the action. Even though he also got beaten a couple of times, he didn’t let that tinker his response to the following few deliveries. The most remarkable thing about Kohli’s response was his approach, for instead of waiting in his crease, Kohli started walking down the pitch a little forcing Broad to shorten the length further. All Indian batsmen, apart from Kohli, stayed rooted to the crease and paid the ultimate price. Kohli was also exceptional in his astute judgment of length and making sure that his response was in accordance to both the ball and the pitch behaviour. Even when the ball was short, he played it with a straight bat, for he was aware of the dangers of a ball keeping low. The most telling aspect of a genius is the ease with which they do difficult things, and Kohli indeed made batting look easy in trying conditions.
England lasting more overs than India
Even though England lost the Test match, all was not lost for them. Right through the two Test matches England has shown that they both have the will and the skill to fight against India in these conditions. While England could have and actually should have batted better in the first innings of second Test, they did walk away with a lot of credit for batting the way they did in the second dig. In fact, they batted more overs in their second innings than India did in their second innings of the same game, despite batting last on a wilting pitch. One area they do need drastic improvement in is their spinners’ ability to stitch together dot balls.
It’s believed that Mohali helps seam bowlers more than the spinners and the slightly colder weather in the North of India is also ideal for them to bowl longer spells. But it’s worth revisiting the old scorecards from the recent Tests at this venue, for that’ll quash all such notions. The last time India played a Test at Mohali, seam-bowlers were almost rendered useless because of the dry and slow nature of the track. In fact, the track was so helpful for the spinners from the first day itself that South Africa’s best bowler turned out to be their part-time left-arm spinner Dean Elgar. While I’m anticipating a slightly better track than the one dished out for that Test (the Test lasted three days) last year, it’ll still be a track tailor-made for spinners.
In 2012 and 2014, England won the series despite India taking the lead first up. History tells us that England have done it before but this time, it’ll be a lot tougher than the last two occasions.
The 18-year-old only moved from Abu Dhabi to England in September after being awarded a cricket scholarship with Seaford College but his potential has already caught the eye of two coaches, who recommended to try out for Warwickshire and Sussex’s second-teams for next season.
The ex-Zayed Academy pupil will travel to Warwickshire this weekend before proving his worth to Sussex coaches a week later.
“This is a really exciting opportunity,” said Riyan, who was in the UAE U-19 squad last year for their ACC Premier League tournament in Malaysia. “I have done very well in training so far and my coach (Chris Adams) at Seaford thought I should take my cricket to a new level and recommended to have a shot of getting into the Sussex second team. He spoke to some of the coaches there and they were interested to invite me for a trial and it’s something I’m looking forward to.
“The Warwickshire opportunity is also exciting and it was my former coach (Nick Tester) at Ardingly College where I studied in 2010, who informed me of the trials.”
While he acknowledges it will be a stern test to impress, he is keen to make the most of these two chances.
“It would be a big thing for me to make it into the second-teams as it will get me closer to playing in England in which I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to do but if I can impress it would help me considerably as it will help me get a lot of experience against the best players in England.”
Earlier this month, Riyan got a taste of playing against top cricketers when his Danube UAE Falcons side reached the semi-finals of the 2X Cricket Cup in USA.
Skippered by former UAE captain Khurram Khan, Riyan was the youngest member of the squad in the exhibition T20 tournament but came up against Pakistan internationals – Kamran Akmal and Saeed Ajmal.
“That tournament was really beneficial because it was all about performing under pressure,” he said. “I did well in that and it was great to learn from players like Khurram Khan and Amjad Javed, who were there to give me advice all the time.”
UAE batsman Rameez Shahzad feels the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) have made a right choice in appointing Owais Shah as the interim head coach after being impressed with his coaching methods so far in training.
Shah, a former England international, was last week confirmed as the temporary coach until the end of January having previously overseen training for two weeks in October as a coaching consultant. His first matches in this role could be against England Lions and Afghanistan with the two sides set to face the UAE in Dubai before the end of the year.
While Shahzad is relishing those encounters, he welcomed Shah’s appointment and had nothing but praise for the experienced batsman, who counts the Indian Premier League and Big Bash League among the tournaments he’s played in.
“He’s come in and made a few things in training,” said the 28-year-old. “Although we are spending a lot of time in the gym, we are spending more time working on different areas like improving our concentration and different aspects of the game.
“It is challenging but I have to admit, it is really good to have Owais Shah work with us for a longer time. He has played cricket all over the world and having played the game as a specialist batsman is a big plus considering we’ve been struggling lately with the bat.”
Although Shah has been involved in the national set-up for less than six weeks, he has already emphasised on the importance of ensuring there’s a high standard of professionalism off and on the field, and Shahzad is beginning to see positive results in training.
“Before Owais Shah came and started working with us, we just used to bowl and bat in the nets and continue practicing those skills,” he said. “But since he came, he has told us that we are now professionals and need to act and play as professional cricketers. He said our mentality needs to change at times if we want to perform well in games and apply that in training.
“That was sometimes missing especially here in the UAE domestic game, We are just used to being aggressive at the crease and try to hit each shot for a boundary.
“He has told us many times that the way we approach games as well as changing our mindsets is crucial because each delivery we will face will be different and it’s up to us to deal with the problem.”