Dust on historic win over Australia has not even settled and another crucial series is on the way,. The adversaries are none other than England, who are the last team to breach the bastion in 2012 by winning the series 2-1.
Some will say the avenging took place in 2016-17 when India won 4-0 at home with two tests by an innings margin. However, lest not forget that England beat India on their home soil last time out and the trophy belongs to them and India needs to wrest it.
England is in prime form as they beat Sri Lanka in the island nation. Skipper Joe Root has been their most consistent player over the past 18 months and his scores of 228 and 186 in two Tests in Sri Lanka show his hunger and he will wish to erase the memories of 2016-17. On the other hand, the Indian team beat Australia down under and did the impossible.
English players rooted for Indian victory and praised the performances of youngsters and they have to subjugate the same spirit in the Indian subcontinent, which has become the toughest hurdle to stride, So best wishes to them.
Chennai: The Indian fort
What Gabba is to Australia the same way Chennai is to India. The red clay breaks and on the 4th and 5th day the ball turns turtle. If we look at the stats the results are well in favor of India.
The last win by the opposition was in 1999 when Pakistan won. I still remember the partnership between Sachin and Mongia when he scored 136 but could not win the Test and India lost by 12 runs as tailenders could not face the onslaught of Saqlain Mushtaq. Since then India has not tasted defeat at this venue.
If we remember the Test in 2016 vs England, it got over in the last hour of the fifth day as playing in the fourth innings in Chennai is like walking on coal. The ball turns viciously and uneven bounce gets you more often than not. So teams bat very well on the 2nd and 3rd day and then the pitch starts to break. On the first day, moisture gives assistance to bowlers and it is difficult to bat but after 3 hours it is good for stroke play.
Great Performances at the venue
History teaches us something and we can observe that all of them were stroke players who could play square of the wicket as the movement of the ball has to be negotiated. Looking at the table and remembering the last match against England I am recalling the 303 by Karun Nair, who was dropped for the next match, and similarly, players like Shardul Thakur, T. Natrajan, Washington Sundar, and Navdeep Saini may not make it in spite of their heroics in Australia. Sometimes, life is not fair.
If we look at bowlers, It is spinners who become unplayable, and very rarely a pacer runs through the innings so each team will include 2 spinners in their squad.
The red soil of Chennai breaks on the 4th day. However this time the curator is an MBA and a Textile businessman. V Ramesh Kumar. So outfield will be green and black soil will be added to the red soil to provide a better grip. So the last 4 sessions will be difficult to play, the rest will be full of runs. In order to understand team selection, one must see the number of wickets taken by pacers and spinners and we can have an idea.
So spinners are taking nearly double the wickets. I would like to inform the readers that when England won over India. The architect was Graeme Swann with 20 wickets and Monty Panesar with 14 wickets. James Anderson or Stuart Broad could not induce victory. They can make some breakthroughs but not run through India's batting lineup as they did in England in 2018.
Changes in Team
I would not wish to be a selector at this moment. As openers, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill fill the slot as one plays on backfoot and the other on front foot due to which bowlers can not decide the length to go with and it's advantage team India. from the word go.
At one down Cheteshwar Pujara, two down Virat Kohli, and three down Rahane is a certainty. Four down is Rishabh Pant due to his batting ability but I would have preferred Wriddhiman Saha as he is a great keeper of spin bowling and in Indian condition, he is a wonderful batsman as well.
Now 5 down is a toss-up between Sunder or Hardik Pandya. As the pitch will have a tinge of greenery so the nod goes to Pandya for his role as 3rd seamer and explosive batting.
Ashwin will hate to be 6 down as he has some good scores in Chennai and he has again become motivated after his superb performance down under. With such a lineup, Kuldeep is an automatic election along with Bumrah, who will be playing his first match in India. Lastly, it will be difficult to pick Ishant Sharma as he was not bowling well in the recent S. Mushtaq Ali trophy so I reckon Siraj would get the nod.
My heart goes for Mayank Agarwal, who on Indian soil has played 4 innings and scored one double hundred and a hundred. His average in India is 85 and he will be sitting out.
The success of England in Sri Lanka will confirm Dom Sibley as an opener in spite of his failure. Similarly, R Burns will get a nod for his doggedness. As Bairstow is not there so Crawley will come at one down. Skipper Root is at no. 4. Buttler and Stokes will take up fifth and sixth spots.
Now Moeen Ali will come in the team as spinner followed by Dom Bess as the second spinner on account of his batting as Root needs support till the end. Woakes, Archer and Anderson will complete the trio of 3 pace bowlers. So it is a fairly balanced team and the spinners took all 10 wickets in an innings against Sri Lanka.
It is no brainer that whoever will win the toss will choose to bat first.
If India is going to win the toss they will make either 400+ and if things click they may score 600+ and think of an innings victory. Kohli and one of the openers will play and if middle-order clicks as Chennai has short boundaries then Pandya and Pant can play havoc.
If England bat first they will score around 300 and India will take a sizeable lead with a 400+ score to put England on to back foot. In the second innings, England will crumble and India will win comfortably.
There is no chance of rain and the temperature will be around 30 degrees but pacers can get some swing early morning. It will be a good contest between bat and bowl and I am sure all of us cricket fans are waiting with bated breath for the battle to commence at the earliest.