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India needs to hold its nerve and show its guile to start winning big moments

The margins are just too fine in elite sport. Every team has to seize the moment. The ability to discern a turning point, win it, and change the narrative of a game to one’s advantage is the hallmark of all great teams.

editorials Updated: Aug 22, 2018 17:20 IST
Hindustan Times
India’s Test players turned up undercooked in England, and before they knew it, were 0-2 down in the series.(AP)

India’s Test players turned up undercooked in England, and, before they knew it, were 0-2 down in the series. Having rediscovered in the third Test the application and the patience required for Test match batting, and having continued to bowl with verve and variety, it has earned a famous victory in the third Test. This was India’s second Test win in England in the past decade. 1-2, then, with two more Tests to play.

Yet, for all its frailties and foolhardiness with the bat in the first two Tests, the score line of the series could well have been different. India could have been 2-1 up rather than 1-2 down. India was outplayed in the second Test just as it has outplayed England in the third. But go back to the first Test at Edgbaston. Having kept England’s first innings lead down to merely 13, India had reduced England to 87 for 7 in the second. Only a 100 ahead, the tailenders batting, India, with its foot on the throat of the opposition, surely would not let up till the innings was decisively finished off? The opposite happened. India relented. England got to 180. Finding 194 too much to chase, India lost by 31 runs — its third narrowest defeat in Tests.

The same thing had happened in the first Test against South Africa at Cape Town earlier this year. Having shot out half the South Africa side for 142 in the first innings, India let up on its intensity. It did not choke the opposition when it had a stranglehold over it. South Africa made 286. And although India bombed out the hosts for 130 in the second innings, the target of 207 proved too much. India lost by 71 runs. South Africa won that series 2-1. India could well have won it 2-1.

The margins are just too fine in elite sport. Every team has to seize the moment. The ability to discern a turning point, win it, and change the narrative of a game to one’s advantage is the hallmark of all great teams. If this India side wants to be considered in the league of the greatest in our history, it will need to, at decisive junctures, hold its nerve, show its guile and tactical nous, and start winning those big moments.

First Published: Aug 22, 2018 17:19 IST