LET’S start with the good news, such as it is. While England managed only a barely respectable result in the first Test in India, their captain provided a shining example of what they’ll need to get back into this series.
Talk about leading from the front. Alastair Cook’s outstanding second-innings 176 was arguably the best by any England skipper so early in their tenure. If only he had team-mates of similar quality, then we might have had a Test match.
Top sportsmen from all disciplines need many ingredients but what sets the true elite apart are attitude and dedication, and Cook has those qualities in spades.
Jonathan Trott is the only one in that side who comes close to Cook in that regard. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen have more talent, but neither has the depth of mental strength to make the most of their gifts like Trott does.
As awesome as Cook was, Matt Prior deserves credit too for his 91. If he had fallen as quickly as most of his colleagues it could have become embarrassing for England, but he proved what a great team man he is and salvaged a modicum of pride.
Until we see the Mumbai pitch it is hard to be sure who should be picked for the second Test on Friday, but it’s safe to assume it will yield the kind of turn against which England batsmen struggle.
With that in mind, and the toothlessness of the seamers, Monty Panesar has to start. There is no point in a balanced attack if the fast bowlers are not producing, and while Graeme Swann did well enough, he could use some help from another spinner.
Steven Finn remains unavailable so I’d keep James Anderson and Stuart Broad as the seamers and omit Tim Bresnan. If there is any bounce with the new ball Broad has the aggression to get it.
Ian Bell’s absence opens the door for Jonny Bairstow. I like Eoin Morgan, he’s a left-hander and plays spin well, but looking to the future Bairstow makes sense.
It’ll be a hugely important toss to win again. Once India had got in and piled on 400-odd runs there seemed a resignation to England, and that contributed to some of the crazy shots that cost wickets.
England can get back into this series. I wouldn’t put any money on it, but if they bat well in the first innings and Panesar plays they have a chance. India will be scenting a whitewash, though. England beat many of that side 4-0 here last year and they will be pretty keen to return the favour.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. He has also acted as captain and chairman of Warwickshire.