Images of India winning the toss on an overcast morning and electing to bat on a dampish wicket summon. Batting was going to be hard work but India knew it was their best chance of winning the Test and getting back into the series. Batting was our strength and the bowlers knew they could perform if they had a decent total to defend. The famed line-up, as expected, batted with grit to pile on a mountain of runs and dismissed England twice within that score. This was the third Test of India’s tour to England in 2002. That particular innings was the watershed innings in the way India played overseas, thereafter.
It was, perhaps, the first time that the batting had performed collectively and changed the fortunes for the major part of the decade. They drew the next Test and also the series, after a long time on English soil. Then, they went on to draw a series in Australia for the first time. John Wright, the man who plotted India's turnaround, attributed the success to the ability to bat five sessions in an innings. He was convinced that batting for 160 overs in a Test increased the chances of winning manifold, or at least decreased the chances of losing for sure. Once we started posting big totals, our bowlers also responded positively.
Unfortunately though, 2011 seems to have changed that trend. Not even once did we bat for 160 overs in a Test match innings overseas. We have managed only three scores of over 300 with 364 being the best against South Africa in January 2011. We may want to blame our bowlers for their inability to dismiss the tail, but the truth is our top-six batsmen haven't managed to bat for four sessions.
We may blame, perhaps justifiably too, the lack of runs or stability from the No 6 and 7, but we must also accept that only Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar have averaged 55 and 49 respectively during this period. The rest of the batsmen averaged below 30 runs per innings. Moreover, Indians scored only five centuries in the nine overseas Tests in 2011. Dravid scored four of those tons.
Losing the Boxing Day Test match isn't a catastrophe, for India have the reputation of being slow starters. Our bowlers may be inexperienced but have still managed to trade on equal terms, it’s time our batting line-up lived up to its reputation too.
(The former India opener plays for Rajasthan in Ranji Trophy)