Joe Root sweats it out at the Brabourne Stadium

Joe Root had an extended batting practice session in the mellow afternoon light at the Brabourne Stadium on Friday. The relevance of Root to England’s scheme of things is even more profound following the nine-pins like collapse against Bangladesh in the recently-concluded Mirpur Test.

Root made 40, 1, 56, 1 in the two Tests against Bangladesh and the upcoming series gives him a chance to prove his mettle in Indian conditions.   -  AP

Joe Root had an extended batting practice session in the mellow afternoon light at the Brabourne Stadium on Friday. The relevance of Root to England’s scheme of things is even more profound following the nine-pins like collapse against Bangladesh in the recently-concluded Mirpur Test.

After making a successful Test debut (73 and 20 not out) against India in Nagpur in the winter of 2012, the 25-year-old Yorkshire right-hander has shown the competitive steel to become England’s mainstay. His record of 4,103 runs in 96 Test innings, with 10 centuries and 23 half-centuries, reflects the above notion. He has been most prolific against India, scoring 611 runs in six Test matches; five of them at home.

Root was the only England player in the middle for about half an hour, facing five off-break bowlers and watched by assistant coach Paul Fabrice and batting coach Mark Ramprakash. The Cricket Club of India provided the bowlers and a couple of them may be of the same height as Ashwin.

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A round of selfies taken by the net bowlers with Root brought an end to England’s near four-hour workout at the Brabourne Stadium. Contrary to initial information that only four or five England players would take the opportunity for an optional practice session, the entire team turned up.

While reactions to England coming a cropper to rookie right-hand off-spinner Mehedi Hasan (6 for 82 and 6 for 77) and hurtle to a stunning defeat has been mixed — some lampooning its spinners, but someone as celebrated as Ian Botham observing that the real test will be in India — England has realised that it has to pull up its socks in order to counter India’s better equipped spin resources in Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

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England spent its first practice session facing a dozen spinners and one shot that was seen often was the horizontal sweep that Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting executed against Ravi Shastri and Maninder Singh in the 1987 World Cup semifinal.

Four years ago, Alistair Cook led from the front, dug his heels in making 41 (109 balls) and 176 (374 balls) at Motera, 122 (270 balls) and 18 not out in Mumbai, and 190 (377 balls) in Kolkata and as a result of his phenomenal show of temperament, England won the series 2-1 after being beaten in the first Test.

While Cook would probably become the first England batsman to aggregate 1,000 runs against India (he has 866 from eight matches so far), England will expect Root to bring stability to the middle order. Root made 40, 1, 56, 1 in the two Tests against Bangladesh and the upcoming series gives him a chance to prove his mettle in Indian conditions. No England batsman has scored more than Root since his debut against India; Cook is second at 3,585 from 91 innings.

England will go through a second full practice session at the Brabourne on Saturday morning before flying to Rajkot and prepare for the first Test at a new venue.