It is certain that India will have a debutant in Visakhapatnam, but who he will be is not yet known, at least not yet. After KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja were ruled out of the second Test against England due to injuries, Sarfaraz Khan received his first call-up for India. Rajat Patidar was already in the squad as a replacement for Virat Kohli in the first two Tests. One of them will get his test cap on Thursday. But who will it be?
“It will be a difficult decision,” India batting coach Vikram Rathour said on Wednesday. Surely it will be so. According to the selection logic, it should be Patidar. The Madhya Pradesh cricketer was the first choice ahead of Sarafarz and others when Kohli was unavailable for the Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. The two centuries scored by the attacking right-hander just ten days before the Test series against the touring England Lions played a big role in his rise up the pecking order. He batted at No. 4 and 5 for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy throughout his life, scoring 4000 runs at an average of 46. But Sarfarz also batted at No. 5 for Mumbai and India A in the last three seasons.
Apart from being slightly ahead in the scouting order, what might work in Patidar's favor is his ability to attack spinners and pacers alike. Sarafarz, despite having a far better average (69.85) and a mountain of runs – scoring nearly a thousand runs in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and 556 in just 9 innings in 2022-23 – in the first-class Cricket, its shortcomings compared to quality pace bowling in the IPL, has always been looked at from the corner of our eyes.
But with England hinting at launching a four-pronged spin attack in the second Test, India would need someone to tackle the turn and step off. Both Sarfaraz and Patidar are well equipped for this.
Rathour said the final decision would be taken by head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma. “They are excellent players. We have seen how well they have done in domestic cricket in recent years. So with these kind of wickets they can really add a lot of value to the team. If we have to pick one, then this is it.” “Of course it will be difficult but that is a decision that Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma will have to make in a day or so,” Rathour said.
“India plays traditional cricket”: Rathour
England used the swing quite well to blunt the effectiveness of Indian spinners, but Rathour said it was not a shot that could be added to a player's repertoire overnight.
“…you have to be prepared for this through practice. Adding more strokes to your game is always beneficial. We played traditionally. The strength of the strong areas translates directly into the use of our feet.
“We can continue like this and if we can add more shots and score from beyond the goal box, that is of course always an addition,” he said.
Rathour also praised the England batters for their courageous cricket, especially Pope, which effectively took the game away from Rohit Sharma's men.
However, he insisted that England's strong performance had not put any additional pressure on his team.
“They (England) were brave. They took their chances, whatever worked for them. The type of innings that Pope played was exceptional. I haven’t seen many play such a knock against our bowling attack,” he said.
“I don’t think (there is any pressure). We are expected to win when we play in India and the boys are used to that now.”
“The message from the support team to them is to play good cricket and not worry too much about the results. The other teams are also well prepared. Having won Test matches in Australia, England and South Africa, we expect them to do the same. Win a Test in India.
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