However, there were still areas to address with England’s batting — barring skipper Joe Root — looking patchy in Sri Lanka. More importantly, English openers failed to provide the kind of starts that were expected of them.
In the absence of Rory Burns — who missed the trip to attend the birth of his first child — England opened with Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley. Former England opener Mark Butcher reckons that the visitors will go back to their regular starting pair of Burns and Sibley for the first Test at Chepauk starting February 5.
“Burns and Sibley are the ones doing the job for some time and they should be opening in the first Test. A left-right combination is handy and England will want to stick with them. If the two get off to a good start, the rest of the batsmen too will gain confidence and it lifts the mood of the dressing room,” Butcher told TOI.
Despite Sibley and Burns making their maiden trip to India with the senior side — Butcher feels they will be aware of what’s coming their way. “The key for success in India is to be patient as the conditions will be challenging. The English batsmen will be watching videos of Indian bowlers and doing their homework in order to be ready,” said Butcher, who played 71 Tests for England.
How should England prepare for the R Ashwin threat? “I don’t think India or England are one-man teams. England batsmen will prepare not only for Ashwin but also for other Indian bowlers. The same will be the case for the Indian players as well,” said the 48-year-old.
However, Butcher feels the visitors will be happy not to face Ravindra Jadeja in the first two Tests. The Sri Lanka series saw England struggle against left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya — the leading wicket-taker with 15 scalps.
“Embuldeniya is a quality spinner and our batters had problems facing him. England will be buoyed by Jadeja’s absence. India possesses a world-class bowling attack but Jadeja adds a different dimension to it,” Butcher said. For England to make a mark in India, Root and Ben Stokes will have to fire. “Both have played in India and are class acts. If Root and Stokes score, England will fancy their chances,” he said.
The players who featured in the Sri Lankan Tests, according to Butcher, won’t find it difficult to acclimatise in India. “The conditions in Chennai are very similar to what England players would have encountered in Sri Lanka. So those who played in the two-Test series in Sri Lanka will get acclimatised easily,” he said.