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Young India takes on bold England

After England shocked India in the series opener at Hyderabad, the host came back strongly in Vizag to get on level footing.

Young India takes on bold England

England captain Ben Stokes with head coach Brendon McCullum during a training session; Shubman Gill

RAJKOT: India will need to be ruthless and tactful in equal measure while dealing with an unpredictable England when the third chapter of a riveting Test series begins here on Thursday.

After England shocked India in the series opener at Hyderabad, the host came back strongly in Vizag to get on level footing. The brilliance of Yashasvi Jaiswal (321 runs) and Jasprit Bumrah (15) allowed India to make a comeback in the series, but concerns remain over a misfiring middle-order, which will now be relying on the young talent to deliver the goods.

Skipper Rohit Sharma’s form with the bat before the eight-day break only added to the growing concern surrounding the Indian batting, which will be without K L Rahul in this game and Virat Kohli for the entirety of the series.

Over the last one year or so, Rohit’s aggressive approach with the bat has not yielded him big scores and the current situation demands the Indian skipper to perhaps contemplate changing gears.

Rahul’s unavailability for the third Test has put forth the possibility of Mumbai batter Sarfaraz Khan getting his long-awaited debut in the longest format. The domestic run machine could be teaming up with one-Test old Rajat Patidar to occupy two of the most coveted batting spots in the middle order.

India’s glaring inexperience in the middle-order would have been well noted by the English camp, whose robust research on opponent and aggressive play has time and again delivered results.

Wicketkeeper KS Bharat’s persistent failures with the bat has raised the possibility of India turning to Uttar Pradesh’s 23-year-old Dhruv Jurel, who is known for his aggressive batting.

With an average of 46.47 in 15 First-Class matches, Jurel has given a fine account of himself. With local hero Cheteshwar Pujara no more in the plans of the selectors, there will be a high anticipation from the local hero Ravindra Jadeja to get back into the ring and deliver for India, whose spinners were outmatched by England in the first two Tests.

Numbers tell only one side of the story and India’s think tank will not be overly concerned with how its spinners have averaged collectively (38.39) compared to England’s (33.90). Unlike in the past where spinners would rule the roost and fast bowling reduced to mere formalities, this series has witnessed a stunning turnaround which has, fortunately for India, coincided with Bumrah being at his absolute best.

Bumrah’s brilliance has stood tall and to some extent saved the blushes for the celebrated spinners who have not thrived in the absence of rank turners. With the pitch at Rajkot being traditionally friendly to the batters, India will have to pick one of chinaman Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel, with the latter winning the vote purely on his batting credentials.

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