Test cricket is a total concentration, confidence and temperament. Team India lacked all the three qualities and succumbed to pace in the first test, demolished at Mecca of cricket, Lord’s stadium and the hopes shattered at Southampton with a 60 run defeat. The team was sailing smoothly to square the series 2-2 but sudden rush of blood saw the team succumbing to spin and losing the match on the fourth day of the fourth test and lost the test series by 3-1. The fifth test on August 7 at the Oval is a mere formality and unless, we focus on our shortcomings soon, we will be facing setbacks again and again on overseas tours. From a position of 3 for 123, were bundled out for 184 and the hopes were dashed to dust.
Dirt was not applied by English bowlers to get an additional advantage and it was not a dusty wicket to stage manage a win as we do at home. It was a total teamwork, which we really lacked and thus, surrendered the initiative and now playing out for prestige. The number one side was pitted against number five side, but we were at the receiving end throughout the test series. It was not a dust bowl but Rose Bowl, playing well even on the penultimate day of the Test match but still we lost. This raises the question whether Team India is good enough to play the five day Test matches? In a single line, the Indian team was a rag, tag, a bobtail outfit as described by Fred Trueman way back in the 1970s and the trend continues.
Apart from playing good innings, the captain has to lead from the front and his fall was the starting point for the collapse. Plus there were tactical mistakes in the captaincy. Both Ishant and Ashwin, the senior bowlers in the side were not properly used from day one of the first Test series. Pujara was dropped for the first test under the instruction of the skipper and coach. The captain should owe responsibility for all his lapses and for this test series defeat. There is a lot of difference in winning at home and abroad. Touring teams coming to India, come with a plan and win series here, whereas we invariably fail in the overseas conditions. This is the second consecutive series defeat after the South Africa loss by the 2-1 margin. We are very the starters and recover only after suffering series of defeats.
Team India is number one and captain Virat Kohli is the number one batsman in the world but we are losing an overseas series 3-1 and thus, becoming number one everywhere but no one could prevent the losing trend. Hype, hoopla and hysteria of Team India winning an overseas series is as good as over. The problem began with Indian openers. They probe the ball outside the off stump and chase the ball from Southampton to Sydney. Middle order is weak and the tail never wags to upset the applecart. Changing the team frequently face a lot of problems. From now on, even T20 and One Day side will go in the test sideway with many passengers on the side occupying top spots, as captain’s favourites.
Instead of blaming Ashwin alone, we should blame the batsmen and poor fielding. Openers were lamps to the slaughter. Dhawan is good enough in giving slip catches, but he is the vice-captain of the One Day side. Rohit Sharma is playing nowhere but he is the captain of the One Day side. Pant gave more runs as a keeper and scored less runs as a batsman. Pandya and Jadeja were just passengers in the side. It was an overall failure of batsmen inclusive of captain Kohli and vice-captain Rahane during a crucial time of the Test series. England had a very weak side but we allowed the tail to wag and that was the difference between the two sides. Professional English batsmen did not score hundreds as Kohli and Pujara did but played useful knocks when needed to put their side in an advantageous position.
Nothing is impossible in the Test cricket. But stamina, physical fitness and faulty catching methods all lacking and draw flak after a defeat. It was a weak English side still Team India was lacking in all the three departments of the game. The team enjoyed dropped chances, referrals going their way, close shaves for our skipper, the main batsman and it was survival of the fittest at Southampton. We failed as a team and instead of starting the blame game, we should work from basics and pull our socks to field two sound openers to provide a great start and work on consolidation to build a big total. Bowlers, especially spinners need sufficient runs and skipper’s support to strike and pose problems to the opposition. The failure of the top and middle order is the root cause for our debacles, surrenders and defeats on an overseas series. It was an eye-opener and a lesson to learn after a series of losses.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)