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Opinion: Need fresh outlook, planning for Australia tour can start at The Oval

Since the bowlers are regularly taking 20 wickets without either leaking runs or the assistance of the fifth bowler, it might be prudent to play an extra batsman.

cricket Updated: Sep 07, 2018 08:54 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
New Delhi
india,england,oval
India's Virat Kohli attends a nets session ahead of India's fifth cricket test match against England beginning on Friday, at The Kia Oval, London, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)(AP)

There isn’t a thing called failure in sports. Yes, you play to win and you end up losing a few times but if you’ve learnt from the losses, you won’t be called a failure. Either you win or you learn. Indian team has lost two consecutive away series and the fact that they were capable of winning both; they’d be extremely hurt with the outcome.

While there’s still one Test match to be played on English soil, it won’t be a bad idea to objectively analyse the things that went wrong and also, to figure out a blue print for the future. It might involve a different strategy or different personnel or, perhaps, both.

OPENERS

Since both KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan haven’t scored a single half-century away from home in 2018, there’s merit in reconsidering their places in the playing XI. While Vijay has already been sent back, there’s only Prithvi Shaw who can take one of the opening slots.

ALSO READ: Experienced batting group hasn’t supported bowlers, says Ajinkya Rahane

Team management should do two things—1. Tell Shaw that irrespective of what happens at the Oval, his place won’t be under threat for the Tests against West Indies at home. There’s no point in throwing a young kids to the pack of wolves without giving him the confidence that the team is firmly standing behind him. And 2. They should choose one between Rahul and Dhawan based on who’s likely to be the opener in Australia. It’ll be a judgment call based on instincts.

SIX BATSMEN?

India, under Virat Kohli, took a strategic call to always play five bowling options (when four can do the job too) in Tests, home and away alike. Interestingly, Kohli seldom fields six bowling options in limited-overs cricket (when five is the bare minimum you need) but with the batting failing regularly, it won’t be a bad idea to adopt the same white-ball strategy for Tests too.

Since the bowlers are regularly taking 20 wickets without either leaking runs or the assistance of the fifth bowler, it might be prudent to play an extra batsman. There’s Karun Nair waiting in the wings since the solitary Test against Afghanistan and also, Hanuma Vihari has been added to the squad. Ideally, it should be Karun who gets the first opportunity but if the skipper is keen to have someone who can roll his arm over, Vihari could be an option too.

ASHWIN’S ROLE?

Ravichandran Ashwin was very effective at the start of the series. In fact, he almost had Alastair Cook’s number in his back pocket initially. But as the series progressed, his efficiency and fitness came under some scrutiny. While it must be acknowledged that most pitches in this series were overly seamer-friendly, the game at Southampton might have sowed the seeds of doubt in Kohli’s mind.

On a pitch where Mooen Ali wrecked havoc, Ashwin wasn’t able to provide breakthroughs, and that turned out to be difference between the two sides in the end. Was he a 100% fit for the game? Was he trying too much? Is there merit in looking at Ravindra Jadeja as an option too? Incidentally, Jadeja was the first choice spinner in 2014 but here; he didn’t get a game even when India played two spinners.

Playing for pride is the most redundant cliche in sport, for every time a player/team steps on to the field, they do with a lot of pride. Unfortunately, it’s seldom discussed when the team is winning as the performances and celebratory stories take centre-stage.

It’s only when the team loses, the thing called ‘pride’ is thrown about in abundance. Like all Indian teams in the past, Kohli’s team also takes a lot of pride in what they’ve achieved thus far and should use the last Test to iron out the issues that might prevent them from winning in Australia too.

(The writer is a former Test batsman and views are personal)

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 08:41 IST