Visakhapatnam, Feb 1: India find itself at a crossroads after a humbling 28-run defeat to England in Hyderabad, setting the stage for a crucial second Test in Visakhapatnam starting on February 2. Ben Stokes' England squad, displaying an aggressive Test cricket approach, secured a remarkable victory by overturning a first-innings deficit of 190 runs, marking India's fourth loss in 47 home Tests over 12 years.
Ollie Pope's resilient century and Tom Hartley's debut brilliance with the ball tilted the scales in England's favour. India's costly drops of Pope further accentuated their struggles in the series opener. Despite late defiance, the hosts fell short of a challenging target of 231, prompting introspection from captain Rohit Sharma.
Rohit, while expressing disappointment, urged the team to learn quickly from mistakes and move forward. He acknowledged the team's failure to be brave, and take chances with the bat, and emphasised the importance of learning from these experiences. In contrast, Ben Stokes lauded his team's fantastic performance, considering the victory as England's greatest triumph under his captaincy. Stokes exuded confidence in his team's capabilities for the remaining four Tests and stressed the importance of encouraging team members without fearing failure.
As both teams brace for the second Test after a four-day break, India looks to rectify its shortcomings and level the series. However, they face challenges with injuries as Ravindra Jadeja and K.L Rahul are ruled out. Sarfaraz Khan, Saurabh Kumar, and Washington Sundar have been added to the squad.
The team management's handling of Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer has come under scrutiny. Gill, despite opting to be India's No. 3, has struggled in recent innings, while Iyer's spin-hitting prowess hasn't translated into substantial scores. Rajat Patidar, known for his fifty-plus scores in first-class cricket, could be handed his maiden Test cap, adding fresh dynamics to the Indian lineup.
Kuldeep Yadav, who was seen bowling in the nets on the eve of Wednesday might get a game replacing Ravindra Jadeja. Kuldeep played his last Test back in 2022 in Chattogram against Bangladesh claiming five-for and overall taking eight wickets.
India might go with a single-pacer bowling option with Patidar and Washington both getting added in the XI. Siraj bowled only 11 overs out of 166.4 which shows Rohit’s faith in Siraj with a turning track, Sundar with his batting skills might replace him becoming the fourth bowling option and a hand left-handed batter to tackle the English off-spinners.
Jack Leach's absence due to a knee injury is a blow for England. Shoaib Bashir, who missed the opening Test due to visa delays, is in contention to make his debut.
Ravichandran Ashwin needs four wickets to become the ninth bowler in Test history to take 500 wickets.
If Sarfaraz Khan gets the debut cap on Friday, only five other India batters will have had a higher first-class average at debut than Sarfaraz Khan's 69.85. The last three frontline spinners to debut for England -- Will Jacks, Rehan Ahmed and Tom Hartley -- all claimed five-fers in their first Tests.
India (Probable XI): Rohit Sharma (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Rajat Patidar, Axar Patel, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj/Washington Sundar
England (Playing XI): Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir, James Anderson. (IANS)