ENG v IND 2021: Laxman bats for R Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari’s inclusion in playing XI for the fourth Test

Team India were hammered by an innings and 76 runs in the third Test against England at Headingley last week. The visitors were bowled out for 78 and 278 in the two innings while the hosts piled up a massive 432 in their only innings.

Despite the embarrassing defeat, batting legend VVS Laxman backed Virat Kohli and company to turn things around in the fourth Tests, starting September 2 at the Oval.

“To squander the momentum in the way that India did at Headingley might be a bitter pill to swallow, but there is enough pedigree in this Indian team to suggest the past won’t dictate the future,” Laxman wrote in his column for TOI.

The former India cricketer praised veteran pacer James Anderson and skipper Joe Root for scripting England’s victory in the Leeds Test.

While Anderson ran through India’s top-order in the first innings at Headingley, Root slammed a classy 121 – his third successive century in the ongoing series.

“India had everything going after their remarkable victory at Lord’s but were comprehensively outplayed by a rejuvenated England side brilliantly served by stalwarts James Anderson and Joe Root. Just how much offense they took to dented pride after the final-day events at Lord’s was evident from Anderson’s intensity at the start of the third Test. He was business-like and characteristically probing, stringing together enough balls in the channel outside off to elicit mistakes from India’s top-order. In a roundabout way, Anderson was an influential figure in what unravelled on Day Five at Lord’s, therefore he took it upon himself to lead his team’s fightback,” Laxman stated.

“India were always up against it once they folded up in the second session on the first day, that too after winning the toss. It was particularly disappointing to see the middle-order not just come a cropper again, but also repeat their mistakes and fall in identical fashion to previous innings. With the gap between matches minimal, it might appear a challenge to make minor tweaks to technique, but who said international cricket was ever easy?,” he added.

According to Laxman, the Indian bowling attack, except for Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, looked fatigued and lacked ideas to dismiss the English batsmen at Headingley.

“Apart from Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, the bowling seemed fatigued and bereft of ideas. Some of it was the residual impact of being shot out for a two-figure score, but that came at a heavy price. England’s openers got off to a cracking start because on a track excellent for batting, India were neither consistent nor patient. The split fields mirrored the addled thinking, allowing England to score freely on both sides of the pitch,” he remarked.

VVS Laxman batted for veteran spinner R Ashwin and middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari’s inclusion in the playing XI for the fourth Test.

“Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan all made fifties, but England continue to rely on their captain. For the third game in a row, the wonderful Root didn’t disappoint. India had little clue about how to get him out, which is why I again advocate the return of R Ashwin for the next Test. It’s fine to have a template, but it’s also time for a change in India’s thought process. They must strengthen the batting by bringing in Hanuma Vihari at No. 6. Apart from in Leeds, Ravindra Jadeja hasn’t had much to do with the ball. Vihari can give the same overs for similar returns. The Oval tends to get drier as the game progresses, which will bring the versatile Ashwin more and more into play. That, and the presence of three left-handers in the top seven, should alone clinch the deal in the classy off-spinner’s favour. But, who knows?,” he concluded.