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OPINION | Virat Kohli, bowlers excel but that’s not enough to become best overseas Indian team

There’s one more overseas tour (to Australia later this year) in 2018 and therefore, let’s take a closer look at the gains from the England series and what the team might need to do to produce a favourable scoreline.

cricket Updated: Sep 13, 2018 08:37 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
india vs england,india vs england 2018,virat kohli
England's Joe Root shakes the hand of India skipper Virat Kohli after the Oval Test.(REUTERS)

One more overseas tour, one more heartbreaking Test series loss. While the score line reads 1-4, the series wasn’t as lopsided, for Team India had its moments. Unfortunately, ‘could have been’ and ‘should have been’ don’t find a place in the history books and this team, like all Indian teams of the past, will eventually be judged on the overseas performances.

There’s one more overseas tour (to Australia later this year) in 2018 and therefore, let’s take a closer look at the gains from this series and what it might need to do to produce a favourable scoreline.

Takeaways

Kohli -- the batsman

Virat Kohli scored 593 runs in the Test series, which not only dispelled doubts about his efficiency against the moving ball but also, established him as the best batsman (across all formats) on the planet. His consistency is a valuable asset, for a lot of great batsmen tend to underperform when given the extra responsibility of leading the side. There’s no such concern for Kohli.

Indian fast bowling

Finally, India can boast of their own pace quartet -- one that’s equally efficient in all conditions with all kinds of cricket balls. They’ve not just managed to take 20 wickets consistently but also, have ensured that hosts are wary of dishing out green-tops. Indian fast bowling is no longer inferior to the bowling departments of SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries.

Pant, Rahul and Vihari

Even though the last Test match was a dead rubber and India still lost, there were few positives to build on. In Rishabh Pant, India might have found a wicket-keeper batsman who’s capable of taking the attack to the opposition when the ball is a little old and the bowlers a little tired. He’s still work in progress but worth investing in.

Lokesh Rahul’s 149 is a validation of his abilities in long-form cricket and might solve half the opening woes in long term. Also, Hanuma Vihari has made an impression in the first game itself, which should encourage the selectors to blood in the next lot.

Lessons

More than Kohli

There has to be more about Indian batting than Kohli. If you have a batsman as good as Kohli at number 4, all you need is a batsman on either side of him who’s equally consistent. Two of the top three must set the platform for Kohli to come and seize control.

On this tour, Kohli kept walking out to douse the fire. And Indian hopes crashed with his dismissal too often. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane impressed in parts but if India were to scale the Australian summit, these two will have to do a lot better than they did in England. Also, there’s merit in revisiting the strategy of playing only five batsmen if the batting is struggling.

Dismiss the tail

While Indian bowlers were outstanding throughout, they did seem a little bereft of ideas when they bowled to the tail. It might feel like nitpicking but the difference between the two sides was the way the two tails batted. There’s no shame in admitting that the English lower order was far more competent than India’s but the fact that we could’ve bowled better shouldn’t be lost on the team.

Pick the right XI

This theme has been consistent right from India’s tour to South Africa. The axing of Rahane in the first two Tests in South Africa, dropping Pujara at Edgbaston, playing Kuldeep Yadav and not an extra seamer at Lord’s, not considering an extra spinner at Southampton, continuous backing of Hardik Pandya and Shikhar Dhawan and not so much the rest are few of the choices that merit revisiting.

Looking back at where you faltered is a sound way of avoiding the same stumbling blocks in the future. There’s a lot going for this Indian team and it has the ingredients to become the best Indian Test team but it’s also a fact that they are not there yet. And it’s only fair to be honest with the man in the mirror.

(The writer is a former Indian Test batsman)

First Published: Sep 13, 2018 08:28 IST