It perhaps is just as well for the cricketers in Chennai’s bio-secure bubble that the second Test against England was fixed for a Saturday start after the Tuesday conclusion of fhe first, which India lost to be left somewhat unexpectedly playing catchup.
When the series shifts to Ahmedabad for two more Tests, the combatants will be obliged to familiarise themselves with another set of Covid-19 restrictions ~ mild or severe ~ but the fact that India, in Australia, and England, in Sri Lanka, were also made to endure life in isolation would appear considerably to have ratcheted up the psychological pressure on them.
So “the-faster-the-better” could well be a functional principle, in hopes of a quick getaway. And India confront a new reality in that, as the global reaction to England’s victory in the first Test drove home, they are the team to have a go at in the wake of the stunning series triumph they pulled off down under. The current contests had initially been previewed in terms of their centrality to the World Test Championship table equations ~ they are important enough still ~ but India’s defeat in the first Test bunged in sub-plots aplenty. Kevin Pietersen’s I-told-you-so tweet in Hindi rubbed it in quite unmistakably, serving to ensure greater popular curiosity for the second Test than might have been possible otherwise.
But there is also a raw hicktown feel to the Pietersen natter, especially his warning against excessive celebrations after the triumph in Australia, which provokes questions about his self-proclaimed prescience. Did he know in advance how Chepauk’s wicket would be? Did he anticipate Joe Root’s correct call at the toss? Was he sure that the quality of the balls would leave the hosts bristling? Did he really know that England would simply bat India out of the match in the first innings itself? Pietersen alone can come up with the answers but hollow attention-seeking is a new social media aspect of normality which, quite ironically, reduced an impressive array of erstwhile superstars to clownish levels during the Australia series. Of much greater importance is how India propose to deal with themselves now.
The wicket, the ball and, of course, the toss are beyond their control. Having vowed a fightback, though, they have to make sure that they do not flop with the bat again. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane will be counted on to salvage their reputations after, euphemistically speaking, failing to make themselves useful in the first match.
While Ravichandran Ashwin will continue to be the lead spinner, Kuldeep Yadav need not be cold-storaged with an inflexible insistence on a putative need for theoretical variety, even if both bring the ball in to the right-hander. If India set themselves the right side up in Australia after taking the nasty toss in Adelaide, they should be all buck and ginger at home too.