Numbers don’t lie: Batting has let India’s bowling down
Besides Virat Kohli’s consistent batting form, much of India’s success in Tests in the last five years has been because of their bowlers. The current Indian attack, comprising Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, is steadily becoming a formidable unit. As the series against Proteas and England (this year) have shown, this Indian unit can be the difference -- only if the batting comes to its own.
Since January 2013, there have been 41 occasions in which India’s bowlers have taken 20 wickets in a Test. Out of these, India have won 33 and lost the remaining eight. The victories do highlight India’s dominance as the World No 1 Test side -- particularly due to their solid home record -- but the losses also have a story to tell, starting with the Auckland Test against New Zealand in 2014.
While the bowlers leaked 503 runs in the first innings, they came back strongly in the second innings to dismiss the Kiwis for 105. India, needing 407 to go 1-0 up in the two-match Test series, were 221/2 -- courtesy Shikhar Dhawan’s century and Kohli’s half-century -- but the middle-order couldn’t stand up to the challenge and the MS Dhoni-led side lost by 40 runs. The second match was a draw and India lost the series.
Next year, India played Sri Lanka in Galle. Despite bowling out the hosts twice and taking a 192-run first innings lead, India suffered a 63-run defeat due to another batting failure. In 2018, there were five instances where India were in the driver’s seat because of their bowling, but the batting couldn’t live up to its potential and hence Kohli’s team lost.
Starting with the Cape Town Test against South Africa, India -- after restricting Faf du Plessis’ side to 286 and 130 -- needed 207 to win. But seamer Vernon Philander’s career best 6/42 sealed the deal for his team by 72 runs. The story continued in Centurion, Birmingham and Southampton. In the ongoing series against Australia too, the second Test in Perth all but proved that India’s batting has been the main reason behind their downfall in overseas Tests.
Each bowler in the squad has shown the patience and understanding to bowl to a situation. The bad habits of erring in line and length have reduced. But it seems the batsmen aren’t learning from their mistakes.
With two more Tests to go before India’s next overseas Test sojourn, the batsmen will need to come up with something really special to banish the memories.