Visakhapatnam: England wicketkeeper-batter Ben Foakes has credited a key change in mindset under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum helping the team in dealing with Indian pitches ahead of the second Test at the ACA-VDCA stadium, starting on February 2.
England won the opening Test in Hyderabad against India by 28 runs and there have been murmurs that the second Test at Visakhapatnam could be played on a pitch aiding spinners more.
The last time England played a series in India, it was in 2021, where they won the opening Test in Chennai.
But the visitors’ struggled to get going in the next three games, which had extreme help for the spinners to lose the series 3-1. This time though, things could be different for England, especially with Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett showing the Indian spinners’ plans can be decimated by sweep and reverse sweep in Hyderabad.
“All three were probably the worst pitches I’ve batted on (in 2021). It’s more of a mindset shift of how to go about it, because in those conditions the bowler is massive favourite to win the contest. It’s how many blows you can put in.
“Going into that, I was thinking, ‘These are horrific wickets – I just need to find a way to stay in’. I think now the group is more, if that’s the situation, you’ve got to be positive; got to put it (pressure) back on the bowler and put them under pressure.
“Before, there was more of a fear of getting out and that put us in our shells. Whereas now it’s not worrying that you are getting out and accepting that you probably are on those sort of surfaces. But how can you actually go and dominate at times as well?” said Foakes to reporters.
The Hyderabad Test was also Foakes’ first game in the format in 11 months. Last year, during the home Ashes series, Jonny Bairstow was the wicketkeeper, with Foakes omitted from the squad. But with Harry Brook missing the tour of India due to personal reasons, Bairstow become the specialist batter and Foakes taking the wicketkeeping gloves.
“I obviously found it difficult. I think with my career in England being in and out a lot, it wasn’t as if I was shocked or anything like that. For me, I find it difficult to crack on with what I’m doing. It sucks getting dropped, but I have come back a few times. I’ve proved I can come in and out so I definitely don’t think that as much now.”
“Obviously you go through a few emotions. One time I was at Lord’s waiting to bat (for Surrey) and Jonny took one on the finger. I was panicking, looking at the telly thinking, ‘shit, I’ve got to bat here!’ It’s more that sort of thing. I try to keep a clear mindset when there’s so much going on. It was obviously an incredible series to watch and I just enjoyed it from the sofa,” he added.
At Hyderabad, Foakes was efficient in his wicketkeeping, doing stumpings off Tom Hartley twice, though he missed out on an early chance to dismiss KL Rahul. Foakes admitted that it is tough to do wicketkeeping in Indian conditions, but feels being quick on his feet is the key to be good enough.
“The more extreme the conditions you know things are occasionally going to go wrong so you just have to mentally strong enough to put it out of your mind. There is a good chance the next one is going to be a tough one.
“You’re in the game, so it’s nice as a keeper. It’s obviously a very hard place to keep, and you’re aware of that. You’re going to have some tough moments or a tough day. But you’d rather be in the game than watching the ball do nothing in front of you.
“In conditions like this, it’s about trying to think on your feet and learn because it’s not natural conditions (for me). I’ve obviously kept away a lot and kept to spinners, but I find that Indian pitches, with the variable bounce, are up there with the hardest,” he said.