Hyderabad Test pitch preview with Mulder

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4 minute read

A Test tour of India feels like a bit of a free hit these days. England are supposed to lose… heavily. Captain and coach talk a good game and their ambitions and belief are genuine, but if the tourists emerge with anything less than a 5-0 defeat, those oh-so-familiar clichéd positives can be taken.

England’s Test team has improved pretty much immeasurably since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over and yes, they did win in fine style in Pakistan in 2022. But Pakistan are not India; Pakistan is not India; and the England team that won in Pakistan wasn’t built around spinners you’ve never really heard of.

England’s approach will doubtless have a certain kitchen-sink-throwing quality to it once again, but the surprise factor is gone. Test matches in India aren’t shaped by surprises these days anyway.

> Why Stokes and McCullum aren’t worried about bad shots, only bad innings

The first Test takes place at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad. We don’t know much about the surface, so we asked FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder for his take.

Fox Mulder says…

People often ask me, ‘how do you relax between X-Files?’ Well in recent times my lifelong love of baseball has expanded to take in other bat and ball sports. I’ve found myself especially drawn to the mysteries of Test cricket and all its unanswered questions. Questions like: Why did India pick Ajit Agarkar? Why did India pick Ajit Agarkar again? How the hell did anyone let Ajit Agarkar hit a Test hundred?

But there is intrigue in the present too; newer mysteries begging to be unravelled. I for one am very excited about this five-Test series between India and England. Victory appears an impossible task for the touring side, but should we not approach the world with an open mind? What first presents to our human eyes as an impossibility may one day reveal itself to be merely an improbability once we have explored those avenues others have previously spurned and scorned.

Is it it impossible that ancient folk tales of predatory nocturnal monsters might have some basis in reality? Is it impossible that an evolved pathogen lying dormant underground might one day reawaken and be reconstituted into an alien race that will colonise our world? Is it impossible that Virat Kohli will be entirely unable to cope with Tom Hartley’s unusually high release point?

These are in fact just improbabilities. And that makes them possible. It is arrogant of us to turn away from events and phenomena on the basis of their unlikeliness. We can and should dream because dreams are the answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask. Who knows? Maybe it really is possible to get the better of R Ashwin on a bit of a bunsen while Ravindra Jadeja whirls away at the other end, giving you absolutely nothing.

The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad has hosted five Tests matches in total, all within the last 15 years. Only the first, in 2010, resulted in anything other than an Indian win, New Zealand securing a draw thanks to a spirited second innings 225 from… oh hello… Brendon McCullum.

But with respect to Pragyan Ojha and a little less respect to Sreesanth, McCullum didn’t have to face anything like this current India attack. R Ashwin took 12-85 in the 2012 Test between those same two sides and that seems a far more useful guide to what we might expect this week.

A year later, Ashwin was joined by Jadeja and also Harbhajan Singh. That trio shared six first innings Australian wicket before a funky Michael Clarke declaration at 237-9. Not too long after, India were 387-1 on their way to 503, at which point maybe we should acknowledge that there are some impossibilities in this universe. Australia were duly all out for 131 in what they call ‘the second dig’ with Ashwin opening the bowling and taking 5-63.

In 2017, Virat Kohli’s 204 helped India to an intimidating 687-6 against Bangladesh. Ashwin and Jadeja – the only two home spinners on this occasion – then shared 12 wickets and India won by 208 runs.

The most recent Test was against the West Indies in 2018 and this one shapes up as a bit of an oddity with 10 wickets for Umesh Yadav either side of a Jason Holder five-for. However, despite a first innings advantage of just 56 runs, India still won by 10 wickets, Ashwin and Jadeja together delivering 5-36 in the second innings.

The theme here is pretty easy to detect (and whistle). We are most likely looking at big runs for the home team and a pitch that grows ever-friendlier to the spinners – almost a caricature of Test cricket in India.

Can England make this interesting? Can they at least make it into a contest?

I want to believe.

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  1. > (and whistle)
    I am not whistling the X Files 6-note masterpiece to deranged looks from the cat.
    Is this payback for my Dominic Diamond reference?
    If so, well played, Sir, well played.

      1. We really need a ‘like’ feature in the comments for stuff like that ‘here hare here’ reference where we want to acknowledge it but don’t really have anything to say.

  2. I’d find Fox Mulder’s pitch report more informative if he were to do that Tony Grieg thing, placing a key in a crack in the pitch, then speculating about the extent of uneven bounce and turn.

    I know you don’t do requests, KC, but possibly Fox Mulder does do them. He might even be able to bring in Tony Grieg himself from The Great Beyond in some alternative dimension.

    I want to believe.

  3. I believe. After all, in the words of Dana Scully, “The science that we were taught takes us but a distance towards the truth”.

    Then again, “Maybe faith is a type of insanity.”

    We will get some more clues next week!

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