It’s a do-or-die situation for England, battling survival chances, leaving aside thoughts of defending their title. For India, the task is cut out — do not let complacency creep in, and look to continue the momentum.
England coach Trevor Bayliss has defended India’s much-criticised preparation for the ongoing Test series, saying the beleaguered visitors couldn’t have fit in more practice than what they did before the disastrous first two games.
India trail 0-2 in the five-match series, which will continue in Nottingham with the third Test starting Saturday.
“The simple fact is, teams like Australia, India and England play so much cricket. I’m sure everyone would love to play more warm-up matches than they do. You simply can’t fit them in,” Bayliss told reporters here.
“Somewhere along the lines the players have to have some sort of rest. Most will play all the games but to keep putting more practice matches in, it’s almost impossible. It’s just the way it is,” he reasoned.
India played just one practice match before the series, a game curtailed to three days from the originally planned four days. The preparation has been roundly criticised by the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, who has questioned the logic of not having more build-up matches.
Bayliss said his team faces similar dilemma while travelling.
“We play the practice matches that we do and get asked the same questions if your preparation right. Well, we’d love to have a few more games. But there aren’t 10 days in a week,” he said.
Reflecting on England’s performance, Bayliss said he was satisfied with every aspect of the show so far.
“The first Test was a dogfight, and this one looked like being the same at four or five down in the first innings. Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes batted extremely well, and then the bowlers did the business again,” said Bayliss.
Bayliss would like helpful conditions at Trent Bridge as well, on account of home advantage, and also for the fact that it would help demoralise sub-continental sides.
“In these types of conditions (like Lord’s), I don’t think it’ll matter what the wicket is like. Here there’s always a little bit of grass on the wicket. With the overhead conditions, it’s the big thing,” he explained.
Bayliss acknowledged that elements played a favourable role for his team in the second Test where England got to bat in bright sunshine and bowl under an overcast sky.
“…things fell our way: winning the toss, overcast the first day and a bit clear on the second day when we batted. There wasn’t as much swing the second day but some movement off the wicket, which is difficult to handle. Then it started to swing a little bit again.
“Certainly the conditions were in our favour but we’ve been to other parts of the world where you lose the toss and you’ve got to deal with it. I would like the conditions to be in our favour every single time,” he said.
Bayliss said the swing challenge in England is similar to the spin challenge on the sub-continental dust-bowls.
“When the ball is swinging around they have some difficulties, as it is when it’s spinning and we go to the subcontinent. It’s a challenge for any team to play in conditions you’re not used to and some of them are struggling a little bit,” the coach said.
England have named an unchanged squad for the third Test, with the possible addition of all-rounder Ben Stokes if he is absolved of affray in the on-going court case in Bristol. Bayliss said that Chris Woakes filled out the gaps easily at Lord’s.
“I haven’t even thought about it at this stage. We will make a decision when we know what happens. (But) The team blocked it out, and the results speak for themselves.
“The guys are able to put anything off field out of their mind and concentrate on what they’re doing, and this was the perfect example,” he said.
Bayliss was effusive in his praise for Woakes, who shone with both bat and ball at Lord’s.
“Woakesy is one of those guys who is very well respected in the team. He has done a lot of hard yards, not just with the ball but with the bat over the last few years too. He’s a lovely bloke, and one of those guys who everyone genuinely wants to do well.
“So, to see him go out there and do so well when we thought we were in a bit of trouble, to go and play the way he did with Johnny, was fantastic, and the boys were very happy for him,” he said.
Bayliss said Woakes looks primed to be a natural replacement for James Anderson when the time comes for the 36-year-old to hang up his boots. But he does not expect Anderson to retire for another 3-4 years.
“Jimmy not just good when the conditions suit him, but in these conditions he’s the best in the world. It’s a test for any batsman in the world to try to face him in these conditions.
“I don’t think there’s any age. He’s fit and keeps himself fit. As long as he keeps his body fit there’s no reason why he can’t go on for three or four years,” he signed off.