‘England never allows any team to win easily in England.’
IMAGE: Ravichandran Ashwin, ranked No 2 in the world, was left out of the first three Tests against England. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Former pacer Ashish Nehra said India should include senior spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, ranked No 2 in the world, in place of a fast bowler for the fourth Test against England, starting at The Oval in London on Thursday.
Ashwin was left out of the first three Tests against England, with Ravindra Jadeja preferred as the lone spinner. The five-match series is level at 1-1 after England stormed back to win the third Test at Headingly by an innings and 76 runs.
“Oval is known for a good batting surface. England is one place where conditions change every session. There are too many ifs and buts, at Oval, there is extra bounce but there is not much movement. You cannot use saliva these days so it might make it little difficult for the bowlers.
In London, it has been quite cold, English conditions are hard to predict. But now this Test match is in Oval, there are more chances that we see Ravichandran Ashwin in place of one pacer, would be really surprised if Ashwin does not play at Oval,” said Nehra on Wednesday.
Ashwin is the highest wicket-taker among the Indian players in England, with 413 wickets in 79 Test wickets, while also scoring five centuries in Tests.
“We now have more tours of England, since 2011, it is our fourth tour. The conditions are challenging here, if you look at series since 2011, you have to agree that India has managed to give a fight, we could have won in 2018. For me, it is important how the team plays, it is possible that we win the series, it is possible that it ends 2-2, but I would not be surprised if England manages to win this series,” added Nehra.
Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant hasn’t been able to get going with the bat. He managed 25 in the first Test at Nottingham, 37 and 22 at Lord’s, and 2 and 1 at Leeds to aggregate 87 runs in the five innings.
Nehra also gave Pant his backing, saying the team management should give him time.
See, somebody like Rishabh Pant or any international cricketer needs to change their game from time to time but they should not forget their strengths also. If you get out while defending or hitting a shot he is the same Rishabh Pant who won the Test match at the Gabba, once he crossed his fifty, he was playing his natural game and for the first fifty runs, he took his time. His way of batting, the kind of player he is and his style will always be a discussion point in Test cricket. Adam Gilchrist was also quite similar. He knew what his style was and he backed that and there were always discussions around him as well.”
“You have to give him time. You are talking about a guy who’s scored a hundred in Australia and England in tough conditions. When you talk about a wicket-keeper batsman he has already done wonders in the last 18-20 months,” he added.
He also hopes that India captain Virat Kohli, who has made just 124 runs in the three Tests at an average of 24, is able to get back among the runs in the last two Tests.
“See, Virat Kohli knows his game. He has been successful in the same conditions, it is not easy in English conditions. If someone like Virat feels that he needs to avoid playing cover drive, he will do that. Virat Kohli has gotten out in slips, not while driving. It is not like Virat Kohli is going for a cover drive when the ball is not there, but you have to give credit to English bowlers,” said Nehra.
The former India pacer believes that veteran James Anderson will be the key player in the last two Tests.
“England never allows any team to win easily in England. India also does not lose at home. That is why it is said that if you win away tours, it is a big achivement. Last 10 years, England has a bowler who utilises the conditions better than anyone else and that bowler is James Anderson. Any Indian batter will tell you how tough it is to face Anderson,” he added.