India sweat over Axar Patel fitness in bid for ideal combination

One of Rahul Chahar and Shahbaz Nadeem might play in the second Test if Axar Patel isn’t fit © BCCI

India continue to wait on the fitness of Axar Patel, who resumed bowling in the nets after missing the first Test in Chennai with a left knee strain on the eve of the match. He was expected to take a fitness test on Thursday, two days before the second Test. The loss of Patel’s batting ability possibly disturbed India’s combination in the first match. It meant Washington Sundar had to play for the batting cushion at No. 7, which ruled Kuldeep Yadav out because India needed at least one bowler to take the ball away from right-hand batsmen.

While India’s three frontline bowlers kept the batsmen quiet on a flat pitch in the first innings of the match, Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem, both in their second Test, leaked runs. All three of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin went at under three an over, whereas Nadeem and Sundar conceded 265 runs in 70 overs between them.

“You need to understand two things in this situation – as a bowling unit, we didn’t bowl well collectively,” India’s captain Kohli said after the match. “If you consider the fast bowlers and Ashwin, then yes, we bowled consistently and in good areas.

“But if Washi and Shahbaz had also bowled such economical spells, then you create more pressure, [and] you cut out 80-90 runs from the opposition. So there’s no need to overthink it. We just have to continuously build pressure on them. And if we do that, then I have full belief that we’ll get the results that we’ve achieved as a side on many occasions.”

On the slow pitch, Nadeem struggled for accuracy whenever he tried to bowl quicker. Patel is an inherently quicker bowler than Nadeem, something that could be a deterrent to the sweep shot too. If Patel makes it, he will be India’s fourth debutant in as many Tests this year.

But if Patel isn’t fit, then India will have a tough call to make. They will need to play one out of Nadeem and legspinner Rahul Chahar to take the ball away from right-hand batsmen – which will mean dropping Sundar will be the only way for Yadav to play – unless the pitch is a rank turner, which does tend to turn Tests into a bit of a lottery.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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