Cranky Virat Kohli, pink balls, bubbles and Jonny Bairstow… Sportsmail’s experts examine the big issues and select their XIs as England go into next week’s third Test level with India, but on the back foot
- England claimed a brilliant victory in the first Test but now the scores are level
- India routed tourists in Chennai and now Joe Root’s side are on the back foot
- The third Test takes place next week in Ahmedabad with key issues to discuss
- Here, Sportsmail’s experts chew the fat and offer their starting England sides
England were brought back to reality with a resounding thud after India routed them in Chennai to level the series at 1-1.
Joe Root’s side are on the back foot heading into the third Test in Ahmedabad, which starts next week (February 24th-28th).
Here, Sportsmail’s experts examine the big issues ahead of the match, including whether Virat Kohli should be playing and their preferred team to face the hosts.
Virat Kohli recorded his 21st victory as India captain over Joe Root’s side to level the series
What do you make of England’s rest and rotation policy?
Nasser Hussain: The absurdity is the schedule: 17 Tests, the T20 World Cup, two IPLs and more, all in little more than a year. On top of that, they’re spending months in bubble environments so it’s going to take its toll.
The best time to rest and rotate is the issue and my priority ahead of the Ashes would have been the T20 World Cup and the India Tests. So I would have made sure I had my best XI available for the first Test in Chennai.
David Lloyd: You have to consider players’ welfare and England will know how each individual is feeling. These are difficult times and cricket is very mentally demanding. But two players consistently get messed about: Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow. There’s so much fuss over the England captain using one word: ‘chosen’.
I know what that’s like. When I said, ‘We flipping murdered ’em’ (after the drawn first Test against Zimbabwe in 1996), I didn’t want to kill anybody. Back in the day the very best cricketers ‘chose’ not to go to India. Ian Botham once ‘chose’ to be in a pantomime rather than play for England. Joe Root shouldn’t have to backtrack.
Moeen Ali is one of the players who has been consistently messed about by England
Paul Newman: It was introduced with the best interests of the players at heart but if you make four changes to a winning side and then maybe five to a losing one, clearly something has gone wrong.
This is a marquee Test series. Yes, England’s multi-format players need to get out of the bubble and be with their families in this of all years, but it should be done during April and May. They should miss the IPL.
Should Virat Kohli be playing in the third Test?
Lloyd: Absolutely not! How can he be cleared of showing dissent? We need a new match referee. Get someone with balls. Are the ICC saying this behaviour is fine in club and league cricket throughout the world? To harangue, berate, ridicule and pressurise the umpire? If that were Jack Leach rather than Kohli, would the same apply? Would there be no case to answer? The ICC are in cloud cuckoo land. Grow a pair!
Hussain: Sorry Bumble, but I think he should. It wasn’t a good look and he’s got previous but you’ve got to remember the passion involved. We didn’t like the smiley Kohli of the first Test and he was more like his old self in this game. Perhaps match referee Javagal Srinath should have a quiet word and say, ‘If you want to talk to the umpires, there are ways of doing it’.
We shoot ourselves in the foot by banning our best players and the series would be worse off without Kohli — but he’s pushing it a bit. He should be on a final warning.
Kohli (centre) divided opinion with his dissent and lack of respect for the umpires
Newman: Well, I’m with Bumble. Only the India captain could get away with that complete lack of respect for officialdom and what got me is he wasn’t even asked about it by the BCCI commentators at the presentation.
This was almost as bad as Mike Gatting and the Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana in Faisalabad in 1987. And that caused an international incident!
Will India prepare another turning pitch in Ahmedabad? Will floodlights negate its effect?
Hussain: It’s not a new ground, it’s a rebuilt one, and the word is they can pretty much prepare any pitch they like. But not only do we not know what the pink ball will do under lights, there’s also the dew factor and sides in India playing ODIs often don’t like fielding second under lights. But if you’re Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, after what you saw in the second Test, I would suggest you’d like a pitch that turned. The truth is no one really knows.
India won the second Test against England by a massive 317 runs on a spin-friendly pitch
Lloyd: What a great question because it’s nothing to do with India! The groundsman is instructed to produce the best possible pitch. But that’s from the ICC, so there we go again. Before this ground was rebuilt, Ahmedabad was a batsman-friendly pitch but with a pink ball under lights, there’s always potential for seam movement. I’m as much in the dark as anybody but it should have nothing to do with Kohli and Shastri.
Newman: It’s not sour grapes to say India went too far in the second Test. That pitch was unfit for Test purpose. Even when India produced turning pitches in 2012 after winning the first Test in Ahmedabad, they weren’t as extreme as this one.
It rebounded on them then because Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar were better than India’s spinners. Sadly, however commendable Jack Leach and Dom Bess are, they simply can’t compare. But floodlights should have some sort of effect if India try it again this time.
Is Ashwin a better all-rounder than Stokes?
Lloyd: They have different modi operandi. Ashwin is a bowling all-rounder while Stokes is a batting one. Ashwin is not nearly as effective away from India but he was a real handful on a pitch tailor-made for him. It was wrapped up with a ribbon!
Hussain: Well, I don’t think so. I prefer gut-feel to stats and I’d say Stokes has done it all around the world while Ashwin is still getting towards that. The problem for Ben is not the comparison, it’s batting against Ashwin in India.
Ashwin is a world-class all-rounder in those conditions and Stokes isn’t bowling much because it’s turning from ball one. Ashwin is winning this battle but Stokes is the better all-rounder.
Ben Stokes’ struggles against Ravichandran Ashwin continue and doubts linger over his fitness
Newman: I agree, Nass. The stats tell you Ashwin is the better bowler and Stokes is the better batsman. But the eyes tell you Stokes is a game-changer all around the world while Ashwin needs conditions in his favour to be a match-winner.
Stokes has done it in India but he’s been out 10 times to Ashwin now and his inability to play him in the second Test is a worry for the rest of the series.
What’s your team for the third Test?
Hussain: You’d be a fool to decide on the bowling a week out. I worry about Rory Burns because he’s not only struggling against Ashwin, he’s had problems against off-spin in the past, notably Roston Chase. If Zak Crawley is fit, he plays.
How about: Crawley, Sibley, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes — and if there is going to be something in it for the seamers, I’d go: Archer, Broad, Leach, Anderson. The problem is Archer is high at eight, so Chris Woakes might come into it. It’s too early to be definitive.
Lloyd: I’m bringing back Jonny Bairstow, even though I remain a fan of Dan Lawrence and think he will be better for this experience. Stuart Broad also misses out for me, but I’m going for one spinner because, from what we’ve seen, Root is as effective as Dom Bess.
So my team is: Crawley, Sibley, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Woakes, Archer, Leach, Anderson.
Newman: It was harsh on Lawrence to play him out of position at three. Why was Ollie Pope protected at six when he is rated so highly? But yes, agreed, Bairstow has to come back now and Root has to be second spinner. England think Burns is the man for the Ashes but he’s scored only 78 runs in his last eight innings.
I’m going: Crawley, Sibley, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad, Anderson.
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