Batting, Bowling, and Bad Decisions – How India Fared in England
The farewell match for Alastair Cook knocked the final nail in the coffin of the Indian dugout in what turned out to be a disappointing tour for the men in blue. With the series already done and dusted in Hampshire, where England were able to steal the match away by a cheesy 60 runs, India were playing for pride at the Oval to make the tally of the series a fighting and respectable 3-2.
‘The Chef’ however, had other plans, as Joe Root and he demolished the Indian bowling attack. Cook scored a mighty 147 and Root a skilful 125, setting a mammoth target of 463 for India. Despite the odds, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant tried turning the match in the favour of the visitors, by replying with competitive scores of 149 and 114 with what was one of the most scintillating display of batting in a fourth innings. But they too, succumbed to the English bowling attack, as James Anderson edged past Glen McGrath as the number one wicket taking fast bowler, by taking his 564th test wicket for the Three Lions.
The tough conditions in England already made it a difficult land to conquer for skipper Virat Kohli, as the nation pinned their hopes on this new leadership and looked to avenge the deeply inflicted wounds of 2011, which are still fresh in the minds of cricket fans throughout the country.
Kohli, who carries a warrior-like aggression on the field, took charge of his team nonchalantly, as the Indians came close to winning more than one test match on multiple occasions. But, unlike his predecessor, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kohli carries his emotions onto the pitch, and is the type of captain who can intimidate some of the players with his demanding nature. Kohli is the type of captain who would expect 110 percent effort from his players on the pitch.
It all began when Kohli decided to drop Cheteshwar Pujara for the first Test, which became a clear reason for India’s defeat. Two of the four test matches lost by India had a very meagre margin of defeat. Apart from Pujara, no one else was prepared to be proactive against Moeen Ali, by leaving their crease to alter the off-spinner’s path. Indian off-spinner Ravindra Jadeja was not given enough time throughout the series. Jadeja proved a point when he along with debutant Hanuma Vihari salvaged and emancipated the team to a fighting position in the final test.
Questions were definitely raised on Kohli’s selection of the playing eleven, along with his tactics used against an English side which showed cracks and vulnerable openings when under pressure. Kohli misread the wet pitch for the second test at Lord’s, when he decided to go with two spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, even though the pitch seemed to favour seam and swing.
The Indian trio of seamers – Jaspreet Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma, proved vital for the Indian side as they toppled the English batting order. They were on target 9 out of 10 times by taking all 20 wickets. In contrast, the Indian batting order toppled against the formidable English bowlers. Opener Murali Vijay and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik failed miserably in the series, losing the management’s faith in the process. Murali Vijay was out of the playing XI after two tests, after being bowled for a duck on two occasions, reminiscent of his lack of runs ever since the tour in South Africa. On the bowling end too, Umesh Yadav, who bowled eight overs in the second innings at Edgbaston, was soon the net bowler, once Jasprit Bumrah was declared fit, playing only one test match in the series. “India now have to look on rehabilitating their reputation in the highly anticipated series against Australia but the batting inadequacies needs to be addressed,” former Australian captain Ian Chappell told ESPNcricinfo.
Perhaps the biggest reason why India lost by a painful margin of 4-1 was the performance by England’s middle and lower order batsmen. Whilst the openers and the top order fell like a house of cards except for the last test, the tail end of England including Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran made it a frustrating affair for the Indians, as the pressure built up by the Indian bowlers went to vain as they lead England to match-winning positions. They defied the Indian attack and proved to be the difference between the two teams in the closely contested first and the fourth test matches.
On a personal level, Kohli conquered everything – from the conditions to ‘swing king’ Anderson, by scoring an impressive 593 runs in his 10 innings. The team was almost dependent on his batting.
India really needs to nurture batsmen who can deliver on foreign soil, batsmen like Virender Sehwag who can take on hostile attacks abroad. After being comprehensively outrun by England, the Indians must take note of their mistakes and prepare themselves for the 2019 ICC World Cup, which is going to be played under similar conditions.
Featured Image Courtesy: Twitter/@imVkohli
Edited by: Tarush Dhume