Tail-enders remain a concern for India despite hard yards in nets

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Nottingham, Aug 2 (IANS) With Indian top-order batting brittle, the onus will be on the lower-order including their bowlers to provide some crucial runs in the five-Test series in England that begins at the Trent Bridge on Wednesday.

The Indian tail has failed to wag in recent times in conditions where the ball moves. In the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in June, India’s last four wickets aggregated 35 and 28 across two innings of the Test match.

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During the first and second Test matches in New Zealand last year, India’s last four wickets had added 33, 43, 45 and 35.

On the tours of England in recent past, there have been multiple occasions where the English tail had rescued the home side whenever the top-order has failed. In India’s case, the first Test in Nottingham is the only one that comes to mind where the tail — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami — rescued the Indians by putting on a 111-run partnership for the 10th wicket.

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India’s vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane said that the team management isn’t really that worried about the failure of the tail.

“We are not really worried about it. The good thing about fast bowlers is that they are working hard on their batting. When we came here to England, obviously after the WTC final, we had that break. After that we started our practice in Durham. So fast bowlers were eager to bat in the nets. They were asking the batting coach. They wanted to bat for 10-15 minutes in the nets, which is a very good sign,” Rahane told the media on Monday.

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The failure of the tail and the fragility of the top-order due to injury to opener Mayank Agarwal and non-arrival of Prithvi Shaw also means that India could be forced to play an extra batsman. But Rahane said that the team will look at the pitch and conditions before taking a decision.

“Out of India when you want to win series, you got to play certain combination. We are not too much concerned about playing five or four bowlers. It is all about, we have to assess the wicket and decide combination,” he said.

In such a scenario, India will definitely be missing pace bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya, whose presence gives India depth in batting as well as bowling.

But Rahane feels that Shardul Thakur is an exciting option and even a few runs will be helpful in the end.

“Shardul can bat and you saw him do it in Australia and has done it in domestic cricket too. Bumrah, Shami, Siraj, Ishant, Umesh have all put in their efforts in the nets. They all want to contribute,” added Rahane.

“Even 20-30 runs in the end and that matters a lot. It is a good sign that they are going to the nets and batting because the results come later on. They are putting in the effort and we are confident that they can make contributions.”

England, on the other hand, will be missing Ben Stokes. But they still have the likes of Sam Curran and Chris Woakes who can chip in with the bat towards the end of the innings.

England captain Joe Root says Stokes will be missed but said that the likes of Curran and Woakes provide options.

“I think there is no one who compares to Ben Stokes. For a long time, he has been a heartbeat of the team,” said Root to media on Monday.

“In the past, the players have been able to manage without Ben when we have played without him, like Sam Curran, and Chris Woakes. Against India, Chris’s performance at Lord’s (in 2018 when he scored 137 and picked four wickets) and Sam’s performance throughout that [2018 Test] series and recently against Pakistan at Old Trafford. We have found ways to win without Ben.”



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