Hopes were high when Team India under Virat Kohli left for the long England tour . It began well winning the T20 series ( 2-1) and then losing the ODI series 2-1. But the real Test and the aim of Team India was the Real format – Test . The five match Test series. After a 2-1 series loss in South Africa earlier this year, it was expected that Team India would make amends . But they knew at the back of their minds that in swinging and seaming conditions England would be tough side to beat.
And when the result at the end of the truly engrossing Test series was 4-1 in favour of England. It was clear which team had won the epic contest. England managed to hoild their nerves to win at Edgbaston, outclassed India at Lords, India bounced back to pull one back at Trent Bridge and England clinching it Southampton and finally completing the dominance at the final Test at the Oval.
England played the big moments better than India . Young left – arm pacer Sam Curran was the find of the series. Skipper Joe Root battled to a hundred at Oval. But when it mattered most England had men to deliver – Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran with the bat . It was not one man show.
Former England skipper Alastair Cook could not have hoped for a fitting end to his glorious International career. Knocks of 71 and 147 in his final Test was truly memorable. The legend had walked out in style. If England were gritty with their batting they were backed superbly by efforts of their pace attack – two premier fast bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Sam Curran too chipping in and when they needed spin magic then Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid did the trick. England clicked as a team and the results showed that.
India on the other hand were left regretting what went horribly wrong. The first major reason for the dismal outings was the batting flop show – Openers Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay flopped miserably. Cheteshwar Pujara despite a fighting hundred ( 132 at the 4th Test Southampton) and fifty hardly looked solid, he consumed many balls failed to rotate strike and this hurt India. Vice- Captain Ajinkya Rahane was far below his normal best. He struggled hard for runs despite a 81 ( Trent Bridge Third Test ) he never looked comfortable in the middle.
First choice wicket-keeper Dinesh karthik flopped with bat and was dropped after two Tests. Hardik Pandya managed one fifty and five wickets then he was struggling to perform. Amidst heavy criticism he was dropped for the final Test at the Oval.
The only solace in batting were skipper and superstar Virat Kohli who scored 593 runs in the series. He was brilliant with the bat. Though some might say he was lucky with some catches getting dropped. But that does not take away his grit, determination and intent to fight hard for the team. He weathered the storm where others failed and came out on top to prove why he is the best batsman in world cricket today. The difference between him and the rest was very much apparent. Virat simply waged a lone battle and poor show in 2014 was hence forgotten.
K L Rahul abandoned his defensive mind-set and scored a fighting 149 at the Oval. Rishabh Pant justified the team management faith to score a superb maiden ton at the oval. Becoming the first Indian wicket-keeper to hit a ton in England. Though his wicket- keeping in tough swinging conditions was not up to the mark as he conceded many byes, yet the young man only 20 with experience he is bound to get better. The performance of K L Rahul and Rishabh Pant at the Oval when they featured in a 204 run stand augurs well for the future despite the final Test loss. Debutant Hanuma Vihari impressed with a composed first innings fifty at oval.
There were some selection errors too that backfired – playing Kuldeep Yadav ahead of Umesh Yadav during the second Test at Lords and playing injured Ashwin in the fourth Test . Team finally tried to make amends – dropping Hardik Pandya for Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja in place of Ashwin at Oval. But till then the series was sealed . It was only left to ponder what would be the final score line 3-2 or 4-1 in the end.
The most heartening thing for India in the series was the performance of the pace attack. They were simply brilliant Ishant Sharma ( 18 wickets) bowled his heart out right through the series , Mohammed Shami ( 16 wickets ) Jasprit Bumrah ( 14 wickets) . Though Ashwin and Pandya scalped 11 and 10 wickets respectively they flopped n the middle of the series. Ishant Shami , Bumrah’s impressive showing does augur well for India’s tour of Australia later this year. This is the best Indian pace attack in years.
The bottom line is India now needs to re-look at their batting before they head to Australia in November. The team needs a new opening pair for sure. It is time to look beyond Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay in Tests. Young Prithvi Shaw should get a look in. West Indies Series at home with two Tests could be perfect debut for Shaw. Pujara’s lack of fluency is worrisome. Long staying game is fine but runs drying up is a huge concern. A free flowing Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer could be given a chance. Rahane’s form and low in confidence is concern as well. The selectors have tough ask in hand to sort out the batting woes. As it was the batting collapse that saw India lose the series in England nothing else. Time for hard decisions for the men who matter.
Another area to fix is the wicket- keeper slot , Wriddhiman Saha missed out the England tour with injury . He is likely to be in contention for West Indies Tests and Australia as he is India’s first choice keeper. So where does this leave Dinesh Karthik in Tests? Especially after Rishabh Pant’s fighting maiden hundred at Oval which saw him earn praise from skipper Virat Kohli.
Head coach Ravi Shastri , batting coach Sanjay Bangar have a lot to answer. Bowling coach Bharat Arun thanks to the performance of the pace attack might escape the scrutiny. Another overseas series loss the next one in Australia in November, for Ravi Shastri could seriously put his position in trouble. Then the clarion calls of Shastri being replaced by Indian batting legend Rahul Dravid , current coach of India A and U- 19 will only grow louder. If not have begun already after the England Test series debacle.
Australia have roped in batting great and former skipper Ricky Ponting to help the new –look Australian team along with coach Justin Langer. England is already mulling some position for retired great Alastair Cook . So it would not be bad idea to bring legendary Rahul Dravid in the scheme of things for the national team . BCCI should give this a thought going ahead and keeping in mind the World Cup in 2019
Battered and bruised Indian batsmen will make runs in home conditions against West Indies for sure in October . But it would be indeed suicidal on their part to put under the carpet their abject failures in England. As win over West Indies is certainly no make- up for England Test series loss.
Moreover, It is no doubt comforting to say we competed hard but at the end of the day the series final score- line matters nothing else. This is where Team India has to look at seriously . After all it is Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar !