Is A Win In Mumbai Pie In The Sky?

It has been pretty quiet over the last few days. A young Lions team has been playing in the UAE, and many observers are still purring over Haseeb Hameed’s rapid rise from embryo to test opener, but that’s about it. I guess this is the calm before the storm – the storm being the 4th test in Mumbai. Well, I doubt it’s going to be a breeze.

It’s a bit too early to tell what the pitch is going to be like, but I suspect it will be a good cricket wicket – much like the one in Mohali. There will be some turn – albeit nothing too dramatic – and batsmen will be able to make runs if they play well. Unfortunately, in England’s case this is a big ‘if’. Hopefully a few days off will make all the difference and our batsmen won’t make so many mental errors in Mumbai.

Although I’m normally pessimistic about England’s chances in the subcontinent, I actually think we’ll be competitive in this next match. Although we’re two nil down, batting poorly and ravaged by injury, I just have a sneaking feeling we’ll be ok. Why? Because it’s Mumbai, a ground we’ve done well at in the recent past, and I’m a bit of a romantic.

The bookies might think I’m mad – they have India at 1.45 and England at 4.80 (odds by CrownBet) – but this time I’m going to let my heart rule my head. Who’s to say that Joe Root won’t do a Kevin Pietersen and play the innings of his life? Cricket is an individual sport and England still have enough match winners to unexpectedly pull something out of a turban or taqiyah.

England’s team selection will be key. If Trevor Bayliss insists on picking Liam Dawson then the Twittersphere (not to mention this blog) is likely to explode. Unless it’s an absolute Bunsen – by which I mean even a collective of Eddie Hemmings, John Childs, Mike Watkinson and Peter Such would be unplayable – England must rely on the seamers. Moeen and Rashid are the only spinners we need. There’s no need for a third one.

In terms of the batting line up it’s a case of last man standing. Keaton Jennings will come into the side to open with Cook – no doubt our antipodean cousins will relish the fact that he’s another South African playing for England – and Jos Buttler will retain his place simply because there’s nobody else. Gary Ballance and Ben Duckett are basically unselectable at this point.

I’d be interested to know how you guys think this test match will go. Although India have the momentum, and my heads tells me that 0-4 is probably inevitable, England haven’t been steamrollered in a series for a long, long time – well, at least not since Bayliss and Farbrace steadied the ship. Perhaps Mumbai will be the beginning of an impressive fight back? We just need to put first innings runs on the board.

Over to you Joe, Alastair and Jonny.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with CrownBet


  • Generous odds on England.
    The two teams are actually pretty closely matched. If the English batsmen perform (and as you say, all it would take is a big innings from Cook or Root), there’s no reason England can’t win.

  • For England, the six letters that matter are S T R E S S.

    Eddie Jones recently had some words of wisdom on the subject. If you know what you are doing there IS no stress.

    So, if you have a plan and, crucially, you believe in the plan, have confidence in what you are being asked to do or have chosen to do, you will bat or bowl without stress.

    The trouble comes when you play in two (or more) minds.

    That is why stress builds as a series progresses and personally decided or team agreed or coach determined plans create dissonance and your game fails.

    That is where too many of the touring party are. Ultimately that is management’s fault.

    Actively or passively they have created an environment in which clarity of mind has been possible for only the few.

  • On the Mumbai pitch, the groundsman said yesterday, ““It should turn from the second day evening, or at least by the third day. We make batsman-friendly pitches for ODI and T20 games, but it’ll obviously be different for a Test. It’ll be a sporting, fair pitch, with good ‘carry’. The ball will move on the first day, as it always does here. The second day will be good for batting, before the spinners come into the picture.”

    Didn’t you think Bayliss’s press comments yesterday were extraordinary? He seemed to be saying that Cook had been in charge and, as he’d cocked everything up, the coach would now have to “step up”. Firstly, it’s a bit late at 2-0 down. Secondly, I’m no fan of Cook’s captaincy, but a little collective responsibility should be in evidence. It felt a little like manoeuvering in anticipation of a post-tour blood-letting to me. Thirdly, Bayliss seems to be giving the old “score six an over but don’t get out” message about positivity but don’t get out. It seems a real mess with Bayliss’s message not being clear in itself and appearing to contradict Cook’s approach.

    Bayliss gave a different interview to TMS and there he said that Cook had been talking about leading the team in Australia. How does that fit in with the line about Cook having a rigorous post-tour de-briefing with Strauss where it’ll be decided if he keeps his job?

    Finally, there are some very unhappy journos about the recall of Morgan and Hales to the ODI side. That has the potential to get quite acrimonious if those two don’t score big in the ODI series in January.

    • Hi Simon. I’m currently writing a piece on Bayliss’s comments. I think there were a few digs at the selectors too. Very interesting stuff.

    • Bayliss’s comments rankled me as well. Cook hasn’t been a great captain so far, but Bayliss apparently believes that going out and playing shots is the way to go. He probably missed how Ali, root & stokes all got out playing premeditated shots. Play the ball on its merits, not go hell for leather from the first ball. It was this kind of advice that caused Compton to lose his head and do stuff that he wasn’t comfortable doing.

  • Bit off topic but what does everyone think about Duckett being dropped from the one day squad? Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down. I know he hardly sparkled in the Test team but he was given a thankless task in tricky conditions. He’s not a test player, that was fairly apparent before he started.

    Now they’ve dropped him from the format that suits him best but brought back the guys who chickened out of the Bangladesh tour! Something is a little rotten there methinks…

    • I really feel for Duckett but I guess it’s a numbers game. He’s a better player than Morgan at this point (imho) but Eoin is the captain and the management / selectors obviously feel his captaincy skills are enough to keep him in the side.

  • The recent ODIs at Mumbai have seen absolute belters where 400+ have been posted with ease. There was even a mild incident at the conclusion of the ODI against SA (last season) when Shastri – then India Supremo (think Illy) – made a sarcastic comment or two (or three) when passing by curator SS Naik (former Mumbai & India Test batsman). I think the comment went along the lines of “Good pitch, thanks a lot”. There was a bit of verbal argy bargy, a complaint (against Shastri) to officials but nothing much came of it.

    We haven’t seen a Test Match at Mumbai since. IPL games were played there ofcourse. What we’ve seen in India is that the curators can produce unexpected wickets. The recent Test against the Kiwis at Eden Gardens was a seaming track. There are other recent examples, I think it was at Nagpur that South Africa bundled out India in 20 overs on the first morning.

    It’s still officially winter, the wickets all over India are not worn like they are later in the season. Most experts have ended up with egg on their face concerning the wickets for this series. In the last Test @Mohali, astute commentators took one look at it and predicted turn from tea on the 1st day. It never turned square yet we never got to the 5th day thanks to England batting poorly in both innings.

    I’m anticipating runs in this wicket and once again it will be important to win the toss, bat first and post a competitive total. Broad will return for England, there’s no way 3 spinners will be used. For India, Mohd Shami will play but I worry about his niggles. KL Rahul will return, and he’s a good ‘un. Eng have only seem him at Vizag and don’t think much of him but I’m expecting him to fire. I also hope KK Jennings has a solid debut, he’s a lovely lad and has worked really hard to get here.

    • Cheers for your thoughts Sanjayn. I totally agree re: the pitches. A lot of experts have got it wrong.

  • Crownbet are a new one on me. I wish they’d use proper odds :-)
    They put England in at a shade under 4/1 which at a stage where you can’t see the pitch and have no idea on the toss is basically no-hoper territory.

    Hopefully the break has freshened us up and the lads have had time to form a plan. Fact is whether we bat 1st or 2nd we’ve got to fund a way to get to 400.
    I must admit I’m totally against the Jennings selection for a number of reasons, I wish him well of course but I didn’t feel this was the way to go.

    An interesting 5 days ahead, the Cook question has been raised by Atherton again, it might form the narrative of the next 2 weeks.

  • Cook has looked very tired that is why the media are raising questions. He has always been quite keen on questioning other players’ commitment so fair enough.

    No reason England shouldn’t win given the hospitality of the cricket grounds in India to provide decent pitches. England would just prepare seaming green ones if the last Ashes was anything to go by. Win the toss and take advantage of the good pitch. If England are failing it is because the players are too anxious being asked to bat this way or that way. They should be able to assess the pitch for goodness sake. Cook’s weakness is that he likes to appear in control but at decisive moments he misses the opportunity to put on pressure. I’ve never really understood that. He’s been captain for four years now. Just hasn’t got natural ability or instinct. Root is over confident if anything and a little impatient. Same for Stokes but he’s been reining himself in. Bairstow bats sensibly. That’s it. Buttler and Ali go for broke. We’ll see.

    No idea how Jennings will play. He has the advantage of being completely unknown to the bowlers.

  • Funny really as Shane Warne was criticising Cook a few years back for his captaincy and it annoyed me then as I thought he was playing mind games from the commentary box. But I have to say that now I agree with him.
    As for Duckett being dropped I have no issue with it. A good coach will have a chat with him and tell him his time will come. Hales and Morgan do have pedigree in that form of the game. Morgan may be short of a few runs but he captains the side pretty well and they have been very successful.
    By the way I don’t think Morgan and Hales ‘Chickened Out’ of the Bangladesh’ tour. They were given a choice, they had concerns and decided not to go. The ECB said it was within their rights to make that decision. So they did. It’s been and gone and we look forward. I don’t doubt there will be a few journalists looking to settle a few scores now as a consequence.
    As for Jennings, it’s as good as time as any to blood someone (Cannot see us coming back from 2-0 down) so hopefully he will learn from and come away a better player.


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