If the England team in Rajkot are a despondent bunch right now, can you really blame them?
They are up against the No. 1 team in the world, who will be playing in their own backyard. They have lost a Test match against a team they had never lost to, and then been asked to foot their own expenses for the trip to India. Stuart Broad, their senior pacer, has already admitted that they are massive underdogs. One of their former captains said that he expects a 0-5 whitewash. Another former Indian captain agrees with him and says “England should be worried”.
Is there really anything Alastair Cook can do, except conjure up images from their famous 2012 triumph? They can. India would do well to guard against:

1. Letting England's 'tail' wag

To call England’s lower order batting as their “tail” would be a misnomer. Almost all of their bowlers, and we are not even counting Moeen Ali here, are technically adept batsmen. Zafar Ansari, Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes have all scored first-class centuries. They bat deep, down to their last man.
And on conditions where low-scoring affairs are the norm, the runs they add at the end of an innings could become vital, as England’s 22-run win over Bangladesh in the first Test demonstrated. India cannot let their feet off the paddle if they, for example, have England down at 90/5. If England’s lower-order batsmen can even wriggle out of a position like that to something above 300, that, by itself, could be a tricky proposition.

2. Under-estimating their spinners

Yes, England’s spinners are not even in the same league as Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja, maybe even Amit Mishra, but India’s batsmen cannot get ahead of themselves and try to dominate every ball they face.
Moeen Ali took 6/67 to skittle India out for 178 in the third Test at Southampton in 2014. Ali is a smart, wily bowler who is aware of his limitations and will not be carried away by the help he will get from the surface. India must remain watchful against Ali and whoever else England pick to partner the offie. Lest it be forgotten, it was only a year ago when South Africa’s part-timer Dean Elgar picked up four wickets as India were bowled out for 201 in the first Test in Mohali.

3. Not dropping Cook (circle and underline twice)

Alastair Cook is smarting. He’s only scored one century in all the Tests he’s played in 2016. He still averages 45 but for a player who’s become synonymous to the term “daddy hundreds”, that is not good returns.
Alastair Cook is a beast against India. His highest Test score, 294, came against India in Birmingham in 2011. He ground them to dust in Nagpur in 2006, in what was his debut. Last time when he came to these shores in 2012, his monumental 122 ensured Kevin Pietersen was free to display his array of skills in a magical knock of 186 in Mumbai, subjecting India to a surprise loss. He then kicked on to score 190 in the third Test as England wrapped up a series victory.
All this adds up to one simple inference for Virat Kohli: Cook is due a big one and he’s playing against his favourite opponents. If he gives a chance, even a half-chance, hold on to it.

4. Control the excitement on the DRS

India have not had the best of times with the Decision Review System. They have been at the wrong end of quite a few questionable decisions which prompted their refusal to use the system till now.
But a change of heart from the Board of Control for Cricket in India means the DRS will be trialled in the five-match Test series, albeit without the HotSpot technology. While that means good news for Indian spinners who will hope to benefit from the system, it also means the team will need calm heads around the bat. On spinning, turning tracks, there is an appeal almost every other over with the bowler firm in his belief that he has got his man. But captain Virat Kohli must ensure he does not get carried away by Jadeja and Ashwin’s exertions and only review a decision when he is completely confident about it. After all, a review not overturned is a review that could have been used later.

5. Sticking out the hard moments

India were guilty of giving away quite a few easy wickets in the New Zealand series even though their bowlers ensured they would not suffer for it. It was only in the last Test when Ajinkya Rahane showed the value of gritting it out – after overcoming a barrage of short pitched stuff, he held on to score 188 and put on a 365-run partnership with Virat Kohli.
England’s pacers could well make it much tougher for India. Stuart Broad has tons of experience, James Anderson could be back after the first Test and Ben Stokes has become their enforcer with the reverse swing and bounce he generates. India will not have it easy against their pacers but they will have to stick it out rather than hit themselves out of trouble.


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