India aim to shackle red-hot Root in fourth Test

Filed on September 1, 2021
England captain Joe Root during a practice session ahead of the fourth Test. (AFP)

Arun said Indian bowlers had time and again defended low totals but were bound to fail occasionally

India have learnt their lessons against England’s in-form captain Joe Root and are determined not to give him freebies early in his knock, bowling coach Bharat Arun said on the eve of the fourth Test at Oval from Thursday.

Root smashed three centuries in as many Tests and is comfortably the leading scorer in the five-Test series which remains level at 1-1. The England skipper has looked in the form of his life, racking up six Test centuries this year and becoming the top-ranked Test batsman.

Arun agreed to the suggestion that the otherwise tidy Indian bowlers might have fed an in-form batsman too many loose deliveries early in his knock to make things easy for him.

“You hit the nail on the head,” the former India bowler told a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

"We have given him pretty fast starts, and obviously we looked deep into those areas, and we look to stem those.”

In contrast, India’s own batting was dismal in the third Test at Headingley, where the tourists were shot out for 78 en route to an innings defeat.

Arun said their bowlers had time and again defended low totals but were bound to fail occasionally.

“The biggest challenge for the bowlers is to defend low scores and they’ve done it in the past. I don’t think it’s fair to pull up the bowlers if they have not done it on one occasion.”

Arun said their Headingley capitulation was an aberration and the team knew how to bounce back from such comprehensive defeats.

He recalled India being shot out for 36 in Adelaide and still winning the Test series in Australia and their come-from-behind win in a subsequent home series against England this year.

“We have done it in the past and we can take confidence from what we have done in the past. I’m sure you will see a much more spirited performance in the coming Test matches.”

Arun said it was possible Ravichandran Ashwin could feature in the fourth Test as the “Englishmen are wary of his abilities”.

Although off-spinner Ashwin has 413 Test wickets and five hundreds to his credit, he has yet to feature so far in a five-match series now locked at 1-1, with India preferring an attack comprised of four quicks and a spinner.

Ashwin was India’s leading bowler during their 3-1 series win at home to England earlier this year, with 32 wickets at 14.71, albeit on sharply turning pitches.

And he played one game for Surrey at the Oval in July, taking 6-27 in 15 overs during the second innings of a County Championship match against Somerset.

“History at the Oval says it will take spin but you also know how the Englishmen are wary of Ashwin’s abilities and what he could do if there is any little assistance from the track,” said Arun, adding that both Ashwin and Jadeja could play in the same XI.

“I think the most realistic option would be to look at the track (pitch) tomorrow (Thursday) morning because anything can happen between now and tomorrow.”

India have added seamer Prasidh Krishna to their squad but Arun said it was merely a precaution, considering the workload on the frontline bowlers.

England have named all-rounder Moeen Ali as the vice-captain in the absence of wicket-keeper Jos Buttler who misses the match to attend the birth of his second child.

Moeen Ali said his appointment as vice-captain was an example of the “beauty of sport” after he was not even in the squad at the start of the series.

“It sounds amazing,” Moeen told reporters on Wednesday.

“Obviously to captain or vice-captain England in any form is huge and I’m very excited. I’m obviously not hoping for Joe to go off the field but if he does go off, I’m looking forward to the role.”

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