India vs England: In the Bard’s country much ado about nothing

By: Express News Service |
Published: August 1, 2018 1:27:04 am

Introductory images of the 22 yards at Edgbaston show a decent smattering of green, which is generally par for the course here. (Source: Reuters)

THE UNPRECEDENTED gap of nearly two weeks between ODIs and Tests on the England tour has brought cricket’s penchant to be finicky about the most nugatory issues to the forefront. It resulted not only in incessant intrigue over the selection of both the squads, but also brought undue focus on a number of sub-plots that have sprouted up in the lead-up to the first Test at Edgbaston. And we’ve had reams and reams written on everything from how the “heatwave” will add a dollop of subcontinental flavour to the pitches to the fall and rise of Adil Rashid’s Test career. The Indian Express looks at some of these much-hyped issues, and how they’re unlikely to live up to the hype.

The Heatwave

“Very warm with a high of 27 degrees celsius,” is how the weather forecast reads for Birmingham over the five days of the opening Test. For most in the Indian camp, “very warm” and “27 degrees” are unlikely to make much sense together. If anything, the weather should fall under the “pleasant” category. Anyway, there’s been rain around Edgbaston over the last two days with “variable clouds” expected to linger around the venue till the weekend at least. And introductory images of the 22 yards at Edgbaston show a decent smattering of green, which is generally par for the course here. So don’t expect India to be contemplating the bizarre move of playing a glut of spinners in a Test match on English soil, as was discussed in some circles based on all the “heatwave” talk and its allegedly devastating repercussions as far as the pitch is concerned. Only 31 wickets have fallen to spinners in seven Tests over the last decade at Edgbaston while James Anderson and Stuart Broad have taken 37 and 27 wickets at averages of 18.59 and 21 respectively. And it will be those two – No.1 and No.4 in the most successful bowlers’ list at Edgbaston – who will start as the major threats for India, as you would expect. And they’ll have the conditions in their favour too, with the likes of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav expected to have their work cut out.

In fact, as the Indians saw in Chelmsford, it takes a lot more than a hyped-up heatwave to change the innate nature of an English pitch. The ball still swings and seams around. Adil Rashid and his impact

“What if Adil Rashid’s delivery to Kohli had turned a few inches more and missed off-stump!” It’s a question that’s been going around English cricket circles ever since the Yorkshire leggie bamboozled the Indian captain on his home ground at Headingley in the third ODI. And though cliched by now, it hasn’t lost its validity.

It’s really not the same as what-iffing Shane Warne’s ball of the century – if that had turned past Mike Gatting’s off-stump and simply ended up as his impressive-yet-harmless maiden delivery on English soil. Rashid is no Warne, and never will be. There’s a reason he hasn’t been able to hold on to a place in the Test squad, and why he subsequently turned his back on red-ball cricket.

He managed all of 38 wickets in 10 Tests, all in the subcontinent, at 42.78 apiece with a single five-wicket haul. And his numbers in county cricket have been rather disappointing over the last three seasons. Neither Yorkshire nor England have really missed Rashid, to a great extent, in the longer format. And while he might not deserve all the bad rap coming his way, he will have to really rewrite his records in order to pose a serious threat to India, forget spin a ball past Kohli’s defences in the same manner he did at Leeds.

Crowd/Home support being the 12th man

Let’s face it. India rarely need to bother too much about playing in front of a partisan opposition crowd. Maybe it happens to an extent in Australia. But they generally get sizeable support in most venues around England, and certainly so in Birmingham with its extensive British Asian population. Ticket sales, though, have taken a major hit according to reports at Edgbaston, owing to the match starting on a Wednesday instead of Thursday, which is traditionally the first day of a Test. With the Warwickshire board admitting to nearly 10,000 tickets going unsold, not only will the ground be half-empty, but it’ll also mean most of those who make it will be wearing the Indian blue and carrying the Indian Tricolour. Expect the chants of “Bharat mata ki jai” to completely shut out the faint whispers of “We are the army, Barmy army” during what is England’s historic 1000th Test match. The proverbial English 12th man – which is how the home fans are referred to – will be playing for India.

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