5 Minor Changes to Improve India for 2nd Test vs. England
There's arguably never been a better time for India to enjoy Test success in England.
The home side's captain, Alastair Cook, is under immense pressure and can't buy a run. The rest of the top order is massively inexperienced, and the pace attack is being run into the ground. Throw in some subcontinental-style pitches and the stars seem to be aligning for a rare Indian overseas win.
The strategy from MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher is likely to be to hang in games where possible then pinch the initiative when the opportunity presents itself. Have Dhoni's men got it in them to grasp those chances when they arrive, though?
Here are five minor changes they could make to improve for the second Test at Lord's.
1. More Positive Attitude
India are desperately poor travellers in the Test arena. You have to go back 16 matches to find the last Indian victory away from home in the five-day game.
The lack of success is almost a chicken-and-egg situation. Do they consistently lose because they play so defensively? Or do they play so defensively because they have been thrashed so often?
Whether the chicken or egg came first, they'll need to be slightly more adventurous to give themselves a chance of victory. Never mind are they good enough, are they brave enough to go for the win? Do India have the courage to play to win rather than not to lose?
India had a chance to have another go at Alastair Cook on the final evening but failed to take it. One former England captain thought they missed a trick by not having a crack at England's beleaguered skipper.
I will be amazed if India don't declare and try and take Cooks wkt cheaply again......— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) July 13, 2014
A bit more adventure from MS Dhoni could go a long way.
2. Attack the Tail
At 202-7, England were rocking in the first innings at Trent Bridge. The Indian attack couldn't quite find the killer blow, though. When offered the chance to truly take control of the match, India didn't manage it. It's hard to imagine Australia taking their foot off England's throat in such a position.
Of course, it's easier to deliver a knockout punch if it's Mitchell Johnson leading the attack rather than Ishant Sharma. But even if Aussie skipper Michael Clarke had Dhoni's resources at his disposal, it's unlikely he'd have retreated so much following Stuart Broad's counter-attack.
Dhoni was too happy to sit on the back foot and wait for something to happen. After losing to Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook knows how costly that can be. Now, thanks to the heroic efforts of Joe Root and James Anderson, MS Dhoni does too.
3. Cut Out the Silly Dismissals
At 344-5 in the first innings, India had scope to bat England completely out of the game. A couple of airy drives and a reckless run out later and the visitors had gifted the initiative back to England.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami rode to the rescue this time, but relying on 10th wicket partnerships is no way to build long-term success.
India's batsmen need to stop the freebies.
Must credit English bowlers for dismissing Kohli, Dhawan and Rahane cheaply (twice) on a placid surface..hoping for a better pitch at Lord's— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) July 13, 2014
4. All-Out Attack Against the Spinners
Whether it's Moeen Ali or Simon Kerrigan, India should mount an all-out assault on England's spinners at Lord's.
With James Anderson bowling 58 overs at Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad 54 and Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes 50, England desperately need their spinner to tie up an end in the second Test.
Moeen certainly hasn't disgraced himself with the ball but is definitely a work in progress. Kerrigan was battered by Shane Watson in his sole Test appearance at the Oval last year.
A repeat performance could leave England in big trouble.
5. Change the Balance of the Side
Stuart Binny justified his selection at Trent Bridge with an impressive second-innings performance with the bat. When Broad and Anderson looked like conjuring up a tantalising finish, Binny stood firm with a solid 78.
On flat pitches, India will need more than 10 wicket-less overs from their fourth seamer, though.
Ravi Jadeja was solid but largely unthreatening too, so Ravichandran Ashwin must surely come into the reckoning at Lord's.
Ashwin's record in his four Test appearances overseas isn't especially impressive, with just nine wickets at an average of 74.78 (compared to 95 at 24.13 at home). He appears to be bowling the doosra again, though, and given England's frailties against the one that goes the other way he seems a better bet than Jajeda or Ashwin.
With two Test centuries and an average of 39.40, Ashwin wouldn't weaken the batting either.
To win, India need to take 20 wickets. Picking Ashwin gives them a better chance to do so. It's a view shared by international coach Tom Moody.