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McCullum stated that England will put in a strong effort in the third Test against India after a six-day break.
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McCullum stated that England will put in a strong effort in the third Test against India after a six-day break.

Brendon McCullum stated that England plans to aggressively attack India after their six-day break in Abu Dhabi.

England suffered a loss to India in the second Test and have now decided to spend more time in their favored desert retreat. They will return to the country just three days before the series resumes on February 15th in Rajkot, with most of their equipment remaining behind. Their families will be joining them and they are expected to spend a lot of time playing golf.

Traveling 2,000 miles to accomplish this task is welcomed by their hosts, but it also raises concerns about how it may be perceived. Despite this, it does provide an opportunity to take a break from the often overwhelming off-field focus on both teams. Taking a break from practice and tour matches is a common practice in modern times, similar to when Australia’s players dispersed to various parts of Europe during the middle of the Ashes series last summer.

“The amount of training will be limited,” stated McCullum, the head coach of England, prior to their departure on Wednesday. “We have already had numerous training days and two Tests, so this is a chance to take a break from the intensity of competition. I spoke with Rahul Dravid, India’s head coach, and he mentioned that his team will also be heading home.”

“Our residence is a bit far, so we decided on Abu Dhabi. We’re excited to have our families join us there. Once we reach Rajkot, we’ll push ourselves and give it our all.”

McCullum compared the first two Tests to a rugby and boxing hybrid, calling it a “heavyweight fight” between two opposing styles. He also expressed admiration for the exciting display of the series.

Following the defeat to Jasprit Bumrah’s nine-wicket performance in the second match, it was acknowledged that India’s top bowler will be a topic of discussion in the upcoming days. Captain McCullum stated, “We don’t rely on theories. Our focus is on ensuring that the team is mentally and physically prepared, confident, and committed to their approach.”

Joe Root, who is known for his success in Asia with 2,169 runs at an average of 46, has been underperforming in the first two Tests. This is surprising given his previous record. His bowling duties have increased due to Jack Leach’s injury in the first Test and he may have been affected by a finger problem in the second Test. Root’s struggle against Bumrah and his dismissal during the pursuit of 399 – a top-edged shot against Ravichandran Ashwin from around the wicket – has sparked discussion about whether his usual playing style is hindered by aggressive team orders. In all fairness, while Root’s strike-rate of 75 under Ben Stokes is 19 runs higher than his overall career, his average of 52 in this time is also better.

McCullum stated that people may focus on the dismissal, but they should also consider the approach Root took. McCullum confirmed that Root’s finger has improved. He added that Root was attempting to retrieve the field so he could score runs. It takes courage to take such risks in the game and sometimes it may result in getting out. However, that is just a part of the game.

“We have no doubt in our approach. There are three remaining Tests, providing us with the chance to score a substantial amount of runs.”

The reason why England has exceeded expectations is mainly due to Ollie Pope’s 196 runs in Hyderabad, but also because of their skilled spin attack. Despite their lack of experience and the knee injury of Leach, Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir, and Rehan Ahmed have collectively taken 26 wickets at an average of 32. As a result, India has been bowled out in all four innings.

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Brendon McCullum expressed that the one unknown aspect during intense competition is the character of the players. He praised the growth of the young spinners, not just in their abilities but also in their determination to perform in crucial moments. He credits the captain for this, as he takes the time to maintain consistent messaging and displays positive body language and behavior. The captain also provides opportunities for these players on the field.

McCullum expressed mild disappointment due to the limited chances for spinners in the county setup. The England and Wales Cricket Board’s performance review in 2022 revealed that only 22% of overs were bowled by spinners, the lowest among all domestic first-class tournaments. He also clarified why factors like release points and bowling speeds hold more importance than traditional measurements.

“It can be difficult because you don’t want to attempt to manage county teams, who have their own goals and objectives. This is where you have to make bold decisions in selecting players. It is not a lack of respect towards those playing county cricket, but in these particular conditions, we needed specific types of bowlers who would be successful.”

“We analyzed the composition of India’s team – consisting of Ashwin, [Ravindra] Jadeja, and Axar Patel – and focused on the unique qualities that set them apart from typical spinners. We attempted to mimic these qualities as accurately as possible. Thus far, our efforts have been successful. Only time will tell how it will fare for the rest of the series, but it is promising to see.”

Ravichandran Ashwin (centre) celebrates the wicket of England’s Joe Root on day four of the second TestView image in fullscreen

Source: theguardian.com