Indian batsmen, reputed to be good players of spin, failed to chase a 231-run target on the fourth day as England debutant left-arm spinner Tom Hartley took seven wickets.Talking exclusively to Timesofindia.com, former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif, who played 13 Tests and 125 ODIs for India, opined that the present Indian cricketers have been bred on white-ball cricket and also didn’t rule out the comeback of the seasoned Cheteshwar Pujara to the Indian Test team.He also recalled that England had won the first Test on the last tour also, but India went on to win the series.
There were no centurions in the Indian first innings, most of the batters were dismissed while going for big shots and Shubman Gill registered another failure. Your thoughts on that…
Shubman Gill is a very talented batsman, no doubt about that, but his game is of white-ball cricket and flat wickets which we get in limited overs internationals. But in Test cricket, you won’t get flat wickets, the ball will bounce, the ball will turn, so Gill has to work on his footwork and I am sure that he will make the necessary adjustments and will score runs again.
Most of the Indian batsmen got off to good starts in the first innings but for the temperament of Test cricket, you have to stay at the wicket and play according to the situation. I am sure head coach Rahul Dravid would have spoken to them about that.
Indian batsmen have a history of being troubled by left-arm spinners. Tom Hartley took seven wickets in the second innings and won the match for England…
I think Indian batsmen’s ability to play spin has reduced considerably. Even Ajaz Patel had taken 10 wickets against India recently. Here I will not praise the spinners so much as he is bowling on turning tracks. Joe Root also took 3-4 wickets. Spinning the ball on a turning track is not a big deal.
Tom Hartley took only 2 wickets in the first innings and then he learned as the match progressed. He said he saw Ashwin and Jadeja who were varying their pace. He said he was bowling very fast. He learned as the match progressed, changing his style, this was the biggest factor in England’s victory. To learn while the match is on and that too from opposition bowlers and then take wickets is highly commendable.
In the absence of Virat Kohli, who will be the key batsman for India in the second Test?
What I feel is that an Indian ODI team is playing Test cricket at the moment. Be it Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rohit Sharma or Shubman Gill, all are strokemakers. Gill loves to hit shots, but doesn’t have much confidence in his defence. So he has to make adjustments to his defensive technique to see off good bowling spells. Even Shreyas Iyer is an aggressive player.
I hope it isn’t too late till Virat Kohli comes (after the second Test). Dhruv Jurel or on current form, even Sarfaraz Khan can get a look in. But in the absence of KL Rahul and Jadeja, the Indian batting will weaken, no doubt about that. Axar may have to bat at No.8 and that’s why I feel Washington Sundar can get a look-in because they want batting till No. 9.
Do you think that Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane can still make a comeback to the Indian team?
See when you move on from veterans, you have to give time to young players. If you are bringing in players like Jaiswal in place of Pujara and Rahane, who play old style Test cricket, then you have to give him time. Pujara and Rahane have loads of experience, but now that you have moved on, you have to give time to younger players.
But Pujara is in good form in the Ranji Trophy and he can still come back, because right now all the players in the team are white-ball players. Virat Kohli is in a different league, he brings great balance to the team. He can play defensive also like Pujara and we all know how aggressive he can get (with the bat). So Pujara with his solid defence, can still come back amidst strokeplayers like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rohit Sharma or Shubman Gill and there is no replacement for experience.
With Ravindra Jadeja not playing the next Test, any chance of Kuldeep Yadav coming into the XI?
India’s main plan is that they should have players who can bat till at least No. 9. When you play on a turning track, even Rohit Sharma knows that India’s batsmen will also struggle, so he wants assurance and security in the batting. The team that played in the last Test was the best playing XI. There were 5 proper bowlers, and batting till No. 9. There couldn’t have been a better playing XI. Axar Patel bats brilliantly in Indian conditions and was even promoted up the order in the second innings.
But in the next match it will be difficult to fill in the void created by Jadeja’s absence, so Washington Sundar can also be considered because if Kuldeep Yadav plays then the batting will only be till No. 8. But I think because Kuldeep is already there in the squad, he will get the nod ahead of Sundar.
Your take on Ollie Pope‘s match-winning 196 in the second innings…
Ollie Pope played a jaw-dropping knock. You can change your game to an extent but to change it so quickly and too against quality bowlers like Jadeja and Ashwin on Indian pitches. Any team that faces them here struggles. But for the first time I felt that Jadeja, Ashwin, Bumrah, Axar Patel were forced to think hard about how to dismiss Ollie Pope.
It happened for the first time. In India, give the ball to Jadeja and Ashwin and they run through the sides but for the first time Ollie Pope forced them to think hard and the way he went about playing those reverse sweeps and switch-hits, used his feet brilliantly, it was a complete package.
The innings not just had the skill, but also the smartness to not just to go for the big shots but also take regular singles to rotate the strike, that adds to the pressure. I don’t think I have seen such a brilliant knock on this track against such a quality opposition that is one of the best in the world. It was indeed a historic knock that cannot be forgotten easily. Even Rohit Sharma saluted Ollie Pope’s knock.
England went with one pacer in Mark Wood, do you think James Anderson can be brought back for the second Test?
Mark Wood is not as experienced as James Anderson. Anderson has less pace but he has the ability to swing and reverse swing the ball and pitch the ball in the right areas to trouble the batsmen. The experience that Anderson brings would be vital. For example, Jasprit Bumrah also took Ben Duckett’s wicket with the old ball. Anderson can play that role with his accuracy and experience, so he can come in for the next matches.
Will it be a turning track for the second Test in Vizag?
I reckon that the pitch will be almost the same as that in Hyderabad, which is not that far away from Vizag. The Vizag pitch is a good track, but you won’t get grass on Indian pitches, so it will be very similar to the Hyderabad pitch.
The Hyderabad pitch was not exactly a turning track. I think the curator should get a pat on the back for preparing a sporting track that had turn, pacers and spinners were getting wickets, runs were being scored, so it was a very good pitch and most probably it will be the same in Vizag.
Do you think India can bounce back in the series from here?
Definitely. Don’t rule out India. They will not get the 11 players that played the last Test because of injury issues. But India had lost the first Test in the last series in 2021 and went on to win the series 3-1. So I hope the result remains the same – that is India win the series but there is definitely pressure on the team. There is no doubt about it.