Joe Root had an extended batting session at the Brabourne Stadium here on Friday.
Whether it was of his own volition or because the team management wanted him to make the most of the lead-up to the first Test at Rajkot, commencing on November 9, the relevance of Root to England’s scheme of things, following the collapse against Bangladesh in the Mirpur Test, was accentuated.
After making a successful Test debut (73 and 20 not out) against India at Nagpur in 2012, Root has shown the competitive edge to become England’s mainstay, and this is amply reflected in his tally of 4103 runs in 88 Test innings, with 10 centuries and 23 half-centuries.
Root was in the middle for half an hour, facing five off-break bowlers, watched by assistant coach Paul Farbrace and batting coach Mark Ramprakash.
The off-spinners supplied by the Cricket Club of India (CCI) were a far cry from the class of R. Ashwin, but clearly the objective was to get used to conventional finger spin.
A round of selfies taken by the net bowlers with Root brought an end to England’s workout at Brabourne. Contrary to the initial information that only four or five England players would take the opportunity of an optional session, the entire team turned up.
While reactions to England coming a cropper against Bangladesh’s rookie off-spinner Mehedi Hasan have been mixed, England has realised that it has to raise its game against India’s spin bowlers, Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra.
England spent its first practice session facing a dozen spinners and the one shot that was seen often was the horizontal sweep that Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting executed against Ravi Shastri and Maninder Singh in the 1987 World Cup semifinal.
England’s emphasis will be to execute the shot against off-spinner Ashwin and play cautiously against left-arm spinner Jadeja and leg-spinner Mishra.
Four years ago, Alastair Cook led from the front and, as a result of his phenomenal show, England won the Test series 2-1 after being beaten in the first Test.
While Cook will probably become the first England batsman to aggregate 1000 runs in India (he has 866 from eight matches so far), England will expect Root to bring stability to the middle-order.
No England batsman has scored more runs than Root since the day he made his debut; Cook is second at 3585 from 91 innings.
Root made 40, 1, 56, 1 in the two-Test series in Bangladesh and the five-Test series against India will give him a chance to prove his class and emulate the likes of Cook, Gatting, Tony Greig, Kevin Pietersen, Ken Barrington, Keith Fletcher, Gooch, Ian Botham, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Fowler and Ted Dexter.
England will hold a second full practice session at Brabourne on Saturday morning before flying to Rajkot. ( Courtesy: The Hindu)