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Ben Stokes is contemplating taking on the role of an all-rounder on the "intriguing" pitch for the fourth Test.
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Ben Stokes is contemplating taking on the role of an all-rounder on the “intriguing” pitch for the fourth Test.

Ben Stokes is contemplating the role of an all-rounder in the fourth Test against India, on a pitch that was described by the England captain as “intriguing”.

Two days before a must‑win Test for the tourists at 2-1 down, Stokes bowled heavily in training. A 20‑­minute spell on the outfield was followed by 35 minutes against Jonny Bairstow in the nets – his first time to a batter since the Ashes last summer.

In the past, Stokes promised the England physio, Ben Davies, that he would not bowl in the series due to knee surgery in November. However, he may have to go back on his promise due to the dry pitch that is expected to have sharp spin from the beginning. England is confident in this prediction, with Stokes observing many early cracks and crumbling topsoil.

It is possible that Ollie Robinson may be the only main fast bowler in the upcoming match, which would be his first since the Headingley Test in 2020. Spinner Shoaib Bashir would also join the team in place of rested players Mark Wood and Jimmy Anderson. If the match is expected to be very fast-paced, another option would be to include Dan Lawrence and focus on strengthening the batting lineup.

When asked about his opinion on the pitch, Stokes responded with “interesting” but was then prodded for more information. He stated that the pitch was intriguing, but he was unsure of what to say. He had never encountered something like it before and was uncertain of what could occur.

The view from the changing rooms appeared lush and verdant, but upon stepping outside, it became apparent that the terrain was drastically different. It was dark, crumbly, and scattered with numerous cracks.

If this were the case, it would signify a shift in approach for the initial three matches, as the home team had previously favored pitches that provided some movement on the first day but remained consistent throughout the rest of the game.

Ollie Pope of England bats during a nets session at JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi, India.View image in fullscreen

In Ranchi, England observed that there were more cracks on one side of the surface, which may have contributed to the varying angles of attack from India’s diverse spin attack. On Wednesday, the ground crew watered the pitch and covered it, a typical action taken to prevent further damage.

Stokes was hesitant to increase his training workload as a bowler, but stated that he was ahead of schedule by “two weeks” in his recovery from a 12- to 14-week rehabilitation period. The 32-year-old, who is close to reaching 200 wickets in Tests, has not bowled since the second Ashes Test at Lord’s due to a torn meniscus and bone spurs in his left knee.

Joe Root made a point of inspecting Stokes’s front foot during practice to ensure there were no no-balls. This had been a concern in the past when Stokes had taken a break from bowling due to mental health reasons in 2021. On the first day of the Ashes in Australia, Stokes had bowled David Warner but it was disallowed due to over-stepping.

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After the session, Davies, the physio for the England team, and Glen Rae, the doctor for the second half of the tour, had discussions. Stokes appeared to agree during the conversation, and later stated that his knee was feeling good. However, due to the strain on his body, he still needed to wait and see how everything would react overnight.

When questioned about how he would compensate for not keeping his promise to Davies, Stokes responded with, “I don’t know, maybe I’ll treat him to a beer.”

There are reports that India is considering having Akash Deep make his Test debut, as Jasprit Bumrah, who currently has the most wickets in the series, may be rested for the fourth Test.

It is possible that England is putting too much thought into the pitch, but considering that the hosts already have Ravindra Jadeja, ­Ravichandran ­Ashwin, and Kuldeep Yadav on their team, they have a lot of spin options regardless of any outcomes.

Source: theguardian.com