As cricket fans return to stands in India, the onus is now on Virat Kohli and Co to iron out the flaws and mount a comeback in the series.
India's 227-run defeat to England in the first Test at Chennai has put Virat Kohli and Co in unfamiliar territory. Rarely have India lost Test matches at home. In fact, the last home defeat came four years back in 2017, against Australia, and the one before that came almost a decade ago, in 2012.
The 2012 defeat was part of the last series that they lost on home soil. Since then Team India has been on the roll with 12 consecutive series wins. England were the last opposition to beat India in India in a Test series and are now 1-0 up in the ongoing one.
As Kohli said after the first Test loss, it's time for a "tough fight" from the home side, after all, not only that the proud home record is at stake, the spot in the World Test Championship final also hinges on the result of the series.
India need to win by a minimum margin of 2-1 to make it to the Lord's in June and losing the second Test, which will also be played at Chennai before action shifts to Ahmedabad, is simply not an option.
The first Test victory was England's third on the trot in Asia and it showed how well prepared the visitors were for their subcontinent sojourn, despite all the frequent team changes as a result of their cramped 2021 calendar.
Team India needs to get the basics right
So, what exactly is that India need to do to bounce back in the series? The simple answer is revisiting Kohli's post-match comments after the first Test and following them in toto. Two things that emerged prominently from the home captain's assessment were lack of batting partnerships and pressure from the bowlers.
Yes, the pitch was flat and slow, and winning the toss gave England a massive advantage but India faulted at the basic things required to win a Test match, some of which they executed brilliantly in their recent series win in Australia.
One of those things was bowling a tight line on a consistent basis, drying up scoring options, and forcing the batsman to commit a mistake. When a pitch is unresponsive, tying down the batsmen to their ends with the help of some accurate bowling is the way to go. It's an area where the Indian bowling erred consistently throughout the match.
While Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, and Ravichandran Ashwin played their roles to perfection, rookie Washington Sundar and domestic giant Shahbaz Nadeem became a constant source of runs for the opposition.
The troika of Bumrah, Ishant, and Ashwin conceded runs at an economy rate of 2.67 in the first innings. The number stood at 3.80 for the duo of Nadeem and Sundar. The lack of discipline allowed England to fetch easy runs as the hosts were ineffective in building pressure for a long time.
It's anyone's guess what the next Chennai pitch would be like but if India are planning to take the pitch out of the contention then they can ill afford more indisciplined bowling.
Similarly, the batting approach in the Test, where top-order batsmen seemed brimming with "intent" also needs a revision. If you are up against a first-innings total of 578, you need to bat long, dig in, and score some ugly runs. The tough old-fashioned Test batting was missing from the Indians.
It's not to say that everyone needs to replicate the Cheteshwar Pujara style of batting, but they need to put a higher price on their wickets. India were reduced to 73/4 in good batting conditions in the first innings and it was the lower-order fight that took the team to 337. The lower-order bailing out the top order is now becoming a regular feature of Indian innings and this has to change sooner rather than later.
England need to continue the good work
With Joe Root leading from the front, England's top and middle order scored crucial and big runs and that proved to be the biggest deciding factor in the first Test. Root has three centuries and two double tons in his last three Tests. The visitors would hope their skipper continues to hit the purple patch and the batsmen around him continue to be the perfect foil for the captain.
Dom Bess and Jack Leach are far from finished products and erred with their line and length at times but showed composure and heart in crucial phases of the game to inflict damage on the hosts. Them along with James Anderson, Ben Stokes makes for a dangerous bowling unit, which should continue to keep Indian batsmen on their toes.
England have also been excellent with their team changes over the three Tests so far of their tour of Asia and must continue to back their methods.
India are not expected to make changes to their batting line up but there could be a few in the bowling department. Axar Patel has been declared fit for the second Test and should walk straight into the side for his debut. Nadeem and Rahul Chahar have been withdrawn from the squad, so we know we won't be seeing them in action in Chennai.
Axar's inclusion could pave the way for Kuldeep Yadav's return to the side. Kohli was clear after the first Test that he wanted variety in the spin department and playing Ashwin, Axar and Kuldeep together provide him exactly that.
England were destined to make one change; Ben Foakes in place of Jos Buttler, who is not available for the remaining three Tests of the series. But will now be forced to also look for a replacement for Jofra Archer, who is out of the second Test with elbow discomfort. Senior paceman Stuart Broad is expected to come in. Anderson could also be rested for Chris Woakes as a part of the team's rotation policy.
Fans return to stands
After the return of international cricket to India, we are now set to welcome fans to the stands. The MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai would have 50 per cent of its capacity open to fans for the second Test and it would be a sight for the sore eyes.
What they would hope for is a comeback from Team India and the onus is now on Kohli and his men.
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