India tour of England: Finding right balance difficult when there is a dearth of all-rounders
Green regulator: Centre seeks six more months

India tour of England: When push comes to shove

A green wicket at Lord's promises more intense action on the field even as off-field issues take centrestage.

Ravindra Jadeja’s every move will be closely watched by the spectators at Lord's (Source: AP) Ravindra Jadeja’s every move will be closely watched by the spectators at Lord’s (Source: AP)

His kitbag strapped like a backpack, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on way to the Lord’s balcony, walked towards the central square. On cue, the curator’s assistant started to take the cover off. Eager to have a look at the pitch, the Indian skipper gave the ground staff a helping hand as he struggled to remove the sari-shaped white cloth spread on the track.

What emerged was a piece of real estate that had a very prominent shade of green. Maybe, at that very moment faces of Stuart Binny, R Ashwin and Rohit Sharma would have flashed in Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s mind as he sat down on his haunches, feeling the grass.

Earlier in the day, out of form England skipper Alastair Cook was asked if the batsman in him would have liked a more brownish track. “We just want some pace, nicks to carry, definitely want a result,” he had replied. He seemed to be speaking for the fans, who would have been disappointed after the draw on the dead track at Trent Bridge.

Indian supporters would want Dhoni to get his combination right, the locals will pray for Cook to find his touch but no one would mind watching cricket’s most heartening sight: a ball flying off the pitch, getting the edge and nestling in the palms of the hunched slip fielder. Add to that the clear sunny London sky, the backdrop of the imposing pavilion, the silence of the disciplined English Test-cricket lovers when the bowler runs-in and the sudden roar at the fall of wicket; cricket’s perfect morning is a big possibility at Lord’s on Thursday. The Test at Trent Bridge seems like a warm-up session on the side court. Now the players are at the Centre Court, their limbs stretched and all fired up.

HORSES FOR COURSES

The two captains were guarded about their playing XI and insisted that the ‘look’ of the pitch on the morning of the Test will decide who gets picked. Indians might be tempted to retain the same side with Binny getting a second chance to prove his bowling credentials. Cook might have had a funny headache on match eve. On the pitch that suits pacers, he might be tempted to play left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan, who has just been recalled to the side. A call to Binny might help Kerrigan since the India all-rounder, the man who relishes pace-friendly conditions, got his big break on docile track with hardly any bounce.

As is the norm, these complex issues about combinations and probing questions about out-of-form players didn’t dominate the pre-Test conference on Wednesday. The Level 3 charge against Anderson resulted in the two captains being spared the tough questions. Cook wasn’t pestered about his slump while Dhoni didn’t utter the words ‘Binny’ or ‘five bowlers’ at the media interaction. It was all about ‘who pushed whom’ and the related queries.

The incident could even have an impact on how the game will be played in the series ahead. With the ICC inquiry round the corner, the teams will at their best behaviour. At Trent Bridge, despite the conditions, there were a few periods of play which witnessed top quality cricket action. But on most occasions those bat and ball duels were spoiled by a needless war of words. With the big brother watching, the players will be selective about the words they use on the central square.

Among the many supplementary questions to the Anderson-Jadeja issue was the one about the impact that the incident would have on the game on the field. That’s when Dhoni spoke about the spirit of the game. “I would like to make sure the remainder of the series is played in the right spirit, but at the same time we want players to be aggressive.”

Cook after saying that India pushing for Level 3 charge was part of their tactic to take out England’s key player from contest, adding that it was the duty of the captains to control their players. So, on Thursday at Lord’s, in the early part of the game, all eyes will follow Anderson and Jadeja. They would try to gauge their body language, they would want them to have a bat vs ball duel and, deep down, anticipate another flare up. But all will be forgotten once the ball takes the edge and flies into the hands of the slip fielders and the men in suits standing up to give a regimented clap from those imposing stands at Lord’s.

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