Cricket enthusiasts display tickets for second Test match between India and England at the M.A. Chidambaram Cricket Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. AFP
Stung by their crushing defeat in the opening match, India and captain Virat Kohli are looking to get their revenge on England in the second Test starting from Saturday as crowds return to cheer on the hosts.
England, led by Joe Root, outplayed India to win by 227 runs on Tuesday to lead the four-match series 1-0 and jump to the top of the inaugural World Test Championship table.
It was a shock loss for India, coming into the encounter flying high after their historic series win in Australia and with the talismanic Kohli back in the side after his paternity break.
Police stand as cricket enthusiasts queue to buy tickets for second Test match. AFP
But the hosts will likely be lifted by Chennai allowing spectators in, meaning India will be playing in front of a home crowd — albeit at reduced capacity — for the first time since October 2019.
It's unclear how many England supporters the Barmy Army will muster, with foreign tourists still barred from India because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the recent Sri Lankan series, they had just one fan.
Root, who scored a match-winning 218 in his 100th Test in Chennai, said he missed the travelling fans but people in the ground would "improve the aesthetics of Test cricket."
Kohli under pressure
Kohli has vowed to give a "tough fight" but the skipper is under pressure having now lost four Tests in a row including two in New Zealand.
In his one Test in Australia before returning home for the birth of his daughter, India were skittled for just 36. And in his absence, India bounced back to take the series.
India are expected to make some changes to their team but batting great Sunil Gavaskar said there is no need to go overboard. "I can't see too many changes happening because 'too many changes' is a sign of panic. And there is no need to panic," Gavaskar told Star Sports. "This is a very good team. This team was outplayed and it can happen."
A cricket fan displays tickets for second Test between India and England. AFP
In the last game, left-arm orthodox Shahbaz Nadeem leaked 167 runs of England's mammoth first-innings total of 578 and was criticised by Kohli, along with fellow spinner Washington Sundar.
England have 'options'
For England, Ben Foakes is set to take over wicketkeeping duties from Jos Buttler who ended his India tour after the first Test as part of the team's rest-and-rotate policy in the pandemic.
England also juggle their fast bowling options, which leaves Root and company in a dilemma over James Anderson.
The veteran paceman claimed a crucial three wickets including Ajinkya Rahane and danger-man Rishabh Pant to skittle India for 192 on day five. But the 38-year-old reverse-swing specialist may be replaced by the equally dangerous Stuart Broad, in line with England's recent practice.
"We have options, that's the beauty of how we have gone about things this winter," said Root. "I think it is really important that we look after our players and everyone comes into the games fit and fresh and able to deliver their skills at 100 per cent." Anderson said he is "not assuming anything."
In-form Root remains key to England with 684 runs in his last three Tests, including match-winning monster scores of 228 and 186 in the 2-0 Test sweep in Sri Lanka.
"I think (India) have got to find something for Joe Root whether it's playing reverse swing or just a change," former England batsman Ian Bell told ESPN Cricinfo.
"He looked so comfortable against left-arm orthodox, you know, the way he plays the sweep shot."
The series will decide which team will meet New Zealand in the World Test Championship final at Lord's in June. India slipped to fourth in the WTC rankings after the loss. Australia are third.
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The ground was a sorry soggy sight when officials called off play for the day and a message on the giant screen, for the fans, read "please keep your physical tickets safe!." The action will begin on Monday...