KL Rahul
KL Rahul (Getty Images)

It has taken three Tests but India are finally resembling a team worthy of being the No.1 ranked team in the format. They came close in Edgbaston, meekly surrendered at Lord’s but roared back at Trent Bridge to make it 1-2. Now, they are looking the square the ledger against England with the fourth Test set to start from Thursday.

One of the biggest threats India have always faced in England has been their record-breaking pacer James Anderson. At 36, with 557 Test wickets, he continues to be the leader of their pace attack. He has shown that again in the India series with 17 wickets in three Tests at 14.88. Clearly, neutralising his threat should be the priority for Virat Kohli’s India.

Spin legend Shane Warne has advised India opener KL Rahul to not hold back against Anderson. After failing in the first two Tests, Rahul looks to have found some rhythm at Trent Bridge scoring 23 and 36 across the two innings.

“The one thing I would love to see is KL Rahul going after Jimmy Anderson,” Warne was quoted as saying by The Times of India on Thursday. “If I was part of the Indian management, I would like to tell Rahul to try and take Jimmy down. Jimmy is fantastic in these conditions and if he has his tail up, it’s difficult to deal with him. The better the bowler, the more aggressive you have to be.”

Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav was sent back after playing just one game – at Lord’s where he returned figures of 0/44 from nine overs as India plummeted to an innings defeat. However, Warne, who took 708 Test wickets in his career, feels it was wrong to exclude the 23-year-old from India’s squad for the remaining two Tests in Southampton and The Oval.

“Kuldeep is very good. It’s a shame that he has been sent back to India. He should have played this Test and the next one at the Oval where it spins. With a bit of wrist spin and a bit of mystery, he would have had a lot of success,” he said.

Despite the conditions favouring pacers, India offspinner R Ashwin has enjoyed fair bit of success. The Australian has advised him to be more patient and devise newer ways to prosper in testing situations. “As far as Ashwin is concerned, he should be a bit more patient. He has to understand five wickets won’t come everyday and he has to find ways to do well in conditions that don’t suit him,” he said.

Warne is happy with the re-emergence of wrist-spinners in international cricket but at the same time observes that the current generation batsmen do not have the ability to deal with spinners. “It’s great that spin bowling can be a big weapon in all conditions, not just wrist spinners but finger spinners, leftarm spinners too. But I have to say batsmen of today are not playing spin bowling that well and that includes Indians.

On the question of the reason behind this trend, he replied, “I don’t know. It has probably to do with T20 where they look to smash them all the time. The batsmen are losing the subtlety of playing spin, going back into the crease, manipulating the field for a single, the way [Rahul] Dravid, Mark Waugh or [Sachin] Tendulkar used to do. Now it’s either block it or hit it.”

Virat Kohli has been in rich form in the ongoing England series, hitting 440 runs with two centuries and as many half-centuries so far. The comparisons with former legends in inevitable but Warne feels it’s too early to comment judge Kohli’s greatness as he is still playing.

For me, [Brian] Lara and Sachin were the best of my times. For the best part of 23 years we had [Jacques] Kallis, [Ricky] Ponting, [Rahul] Dravid, [Kumar] Sangakkara…all great players. And then we had two standouts, they were so much better, with no disrespect for the others. It’s hard to judge the greatness of Virat now as he is still playing, but when I see him I find he can go up there in the conversation involving Tendulkar and Lara. Is he the greatest ever? Well you can’t say that now unless he plays in all conditions against all players in all formats over a long period of time. But at the present moment, Virat is the best batsman who can play all formats,” he said.