Michael Atherton reckons England have a golden opportunity to become the first team to beat India on their soil in a Test series after 12 years, riding on the back of their 28-run win in the Hyderabad Test. Atherton, the former England captain who played 115 Tests for his country, is confident that Ben Stokes and Co. would want to promote themselves as heavy favourites to win the series and not just another team touring India, given their come-from-behind win.
“Such an outcome, so unexpected and so unbelievable given where both teams were after the first innings, must have a huge psychological impact, especially given the quick turnaround and the injuries to two of India’s key players, Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul. England have an excellent chance of building on their lead,” Atherton wrote in his column for The Times.
Atherton’s belief stems from the fact that India have been ‘weakened’ by the absence of Rahul and Jadeja, who are missing the second Test in Visakhapatnam due to respective injuries. Reports floating around in the Indian media suggest that Jadeja, for all we know, is out of the entire series even though anything of this sort or a follow up from the BCCI is yet to come. Calling Jadeja next only to Virat Kohli in terms of what he brings to the table, Atherton believes India will be jolted by his absence and that no number of talented players – be it Washington Sundar or Kuldeep Yadav – can make up for the loss of Jadeja.
“India are not only 1-0 down, but are faced with rare uncertainty over the shape and balance of their team. Suddenly, it looks full of potential weaknesses. Jadeja is India’s second-most valuable cricketer after Virat Kohli. He [Jadeja] has a fine record as an all-rounder – the differential in batting and bowling averages places him in the highest rank – and that balances the team beautifully,” the former England captain pointed out.
“Washington Sundar, the off-spinning all-rounder who was called into the squad this week, weakens the bowling; Saurabh Kumar, the left-arm all-rounder, weakens the batting, as would Kuldeep Yadav’s wrist spin. All the problems lie with India.”
Too early to predict
Atherton could be right… or not, but there is a long way to go in the Vizag Test and the series. Jadeja has been replaced by Kuldeep Yadav in the Playing XI and Rajat Patidar, who on Friday made his debut in place of Rahul, batted with confidence during his innings of 32. Patidar exuded shades of old school, playing the old backfoot punches and mixed it with some unorthodoxy when he reverse-swept Joe Root. Looking good for at least a half-century, Patidar was 18 away from it when he played on a delivery from Rehan Ahmed.
But the day belonged to Yashasvi Jaiswal, who scored his 2nd Test century and remained unbeaten on 179 to take India to 336/6 at stumps on the opening day. He added valuable partnerships with Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Patidar and Axar Patel and held one end even as wickets tumbled at the other with every Indian batter throwing away starts.