Ishant Sharma bowls to Jos Buttler
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What India need to do to win in England

Fifteen things Kohli's team has got to get right

Girish TS, Ishita Mazumder, Dustin Silgardo, Srinath Sripath, Sidharth Monga |

1 Catch. India got a new slip cordon in 2013-14, who went to South Africa last December having taken 32 and dropped 45 of the opportunities their fast bowlers had created. Then they dropped Keshav Maharaj in the first Test, in Cape Town, and a host of chances went down in the second Test, in Centurion. Two-nil, series over. Just to underline the point further, in the Test that India won, South Africa dropped Virat Kohli twice; India took all their catches.

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2 M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. They are two anomalies in modern cricket, in that they love playing defensively. Their first job is to protect Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane from the new ball, and they played uncharacteristic shots - and too many of them - in the first two Tests in South Africa. They were back to defensive cricket when India won.

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3 Judge form. India want to pick players on current form but when there is no first-class match between Tests, how do those sitting out stake their claim for a place? India will have to be smart at managing those outside the XI.

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4 Don't rule out spin. India's overseas wins are usually two kinds: low-scorer on a seaming track or runs on board and then spin, spin, spin. One of India's three wins in England this century was through spin. The Tests on this tour are in August and September, by which time the pitches will be tired and worn out. Keep open the option of playing two spinners - one wrist and one finger - with R Ashwin playing the allrounder's role.

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5 Rahane. Don't drop him again. He has played a crucial role in both of India's last two wins in England and South Africa. At Lord's in 2014 he scored a hundred and shepherded the tail on a green seamer; on a difficult Wanderers pitch this year, playing his first Test of the series, he top-scored for India in the second innings, helping put the chase beyond South Africa.

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6 Runs from the wicketkeeper. Wriddhiman Saha has been great at home but he, as well as Parthiv Patel, could not make much of a contribution with the bat in South Africa. That MS Dhoni hole, in that sense, is not yet filled. Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant have their task cut out.

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7 Kohli. First, keep him fit. Next, sort out that defensive shot outside off which gets him so often. He likes to feel bat on ball early on but in doing that he tends to defend balls he can leave. If he middles them he gets no runs, but if he edges them he is gone; none of these balls threaten his pads or stumps. Once he is through that initial phase, everybody knows how destructive he can be. Finally, consider getting him a bad haircut. It helps with the media pressure.

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8 Manage the seamers' workload. They are up against five Tests in under six weeks. Injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have made it worse. Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami might have to carry India at the start. It is of absolute importance that if and when the two injured fast bowlers join the team, they be fresh and ready to go.

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9 Don't give Joe Root an easy run. Try the Aussie trick of going after the captain. Root is already under pressure after a long winless streak overseas and a drawn series against Pakistan at home.

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10 Negate home support. Birmingham and London are well represented by Indian crowds. Do well, and they will travel to Nottingham and Southampton too.

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11 Don't give wickets to the opposition spinner. Moeen Ali took 19 against India the last time. Nathan Lyon took 23 on the Australia tour that followed.

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12 Go after England's third seamer. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are not young. Keep forcing them to come back for spell after spell.

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13 Don't be shy of picking six batsmen. Especially when playing on a green seamer. In Johannesburg this year, for example, an extra batsman would have been more helpful than the few overs Hardik Pandya got in. While he has proved himself to be a better option than Stuart Binny, who went to England in 2014, Pandya is best utilised on flatter pitches, where bowlers need frequent breaks and batting doesn't demand the best technique.

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14 Pujara between the wickets. He mustn't run himself out. He mustn't run anybody else out - except while fielding.

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15 Vijay's opening partner. Work out who it should be, and how many Tests should he be given. Ever since Virender Sehwag left, India haven't had a settled pair at the top. Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul are the survivors, and good friends, but it helps to have clarity of roles.

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Girish TS and Ishita Mazumder are designers at ESPNcricinfo, Dustin Silgardo and Sidharth Monga are assistant editors, and Srinath Sripath is a sub-editor

 

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