India’s old-school brilliance beats England’s Bazball 4-1 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India’s old-school brilliance beats England’s Bazball 4-1

By, Dharamsala
Mar 10, 2024 08:45 AM IST

England's struggles in India continue. India dominates with new faces stepping up, including Jaiswal's batting and Kuldeep's spin prowess.

“I remember when we beat New Zealand 3-0, (the chatter) was we couldn’t do it against South Africa, (we) couldn’t do it against Pakistan, (we) couldn’t do it against Australia. So, who knows if we can do it against India, only time will tell.”

Indian cricket team captain Rohit Sharma (L) with the trophy joins his teammates after the Test in Dharamsala on Saturday. (PTI)
Indian cricket team captain Rohit Sharma (L) with the trophy joins his teammates after the Test in Dharamsala on Saturday. (PTI)

This was Ben Stokes at the end of last year’s Ashes series responding to a question about the prospects of Bazball – a term coined by the British media to describe a team seemingly rejuvenated under the captain and coach Brendon McCullum – working in a Test series in India.

Time has told us that England’s brand of play – to be fair, the players haven’t really embraced that moniker – doesn’t yield results in India. Not against India’s world-class bowling attack at any rate. They could be bullish about the “positives”, but if they are serious about improving after being outplayed in Dharamsala to suffer a 4-1 series defeat, it’s time to get back to the drawing board and have some honest conversations about where they stand in these conditions – they have won two and lost 11 of their last 14 Tests in India.

For India, this is the time to bask in glory. Yes, they are accustomed to winning in their backyard – their streak of home series victories has extended to 17 – but the players and the team management had a few unforeseen challenges to navigate. The victory in Dharamsala was a case of total dominance, but at different stages of the other matches, they were in situations that needed their players to respond under pressure. That India didn’t have some of their first-choice players – Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami were absent all through while KL Rahul played only the first Test – was a major handicap, calling for some new faces to show they belong at Test level.

India fielded five debutants during this series, and barring Rajat Patidar who should use this experience to become a better batter, each of the others – Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel, Akash Deep and Devdutt Padikkal – chipped in with performances worthy of praise. The seniors too pulled their weight at critical junctures, be it Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja or Jasprit Bumrah.

The biggest takeaways for India will be the performances of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill and Kuldeep Yadav. Jaiswal, 22, is only nine Tests old, but such is his promise and hunger for runs that he may be a vital member of that batting unit – in the middle of a gradual transition post the exits of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane – for many years to come. He was named the player-of-the-series, after 712 runs in five Tests at an average of 89 with two double centuries. Only Sunil Gavaskar has scored more runs for India in a Test series.

Jaiswal’s six-hitting prowess – he dispatched the ball into the stands on 26 occasions – is also remarkable, reflective of the modern all-format batter. That he will be just as valuable in Rajasthan Royals’ pink jersey when IPL commences in two weeks underlines his versatility.

When Jaiswal made his debut in the Caribbean last year, Gill moved down to No.3. The start was sub-par, returning only 166 runs in his first eight innings without a fifty. So, when this series began in Hyderabad in January, doubts understandably existed about Gill not translating his ability into consistent runs at the Test level. As the series ends though, Gill has managed to ease some of the concerns by racking up runs and letting his undoubted class shine through.

The most pleasing aspect of India’s victory has to be Kuldeep’s rise as a top-quality performer in Test cricket. It may seem strange to categorise this as his emergence, but the fact is the left-arm spinner had only played eight Tests in nearly seven years before this series. Even against England, Kuldeep wasn’t included for the first Test, but Jadeja’s injury ahead of the game in Visakhapatnam allowed the 29-year-old to shed light on the X-factor India have often chosen to ignore.

For the first time in his career, he played four consecutive Tests, bowling spells that often bamboozled even England’s experienced batters. In Dharamsala, he was the Player-of-the-Match for a five-wicket haul in the first innings and match figures of 7/112.

“It’s been tough on Kuldeep, to be honest,” India coach Rahul Dravid acknowledged. “He’s bowling at a time when there are legends of the game who are playing as spinners. Both Ashwin and Jadeja are absolute legends of the game. So, it’s not been easy for Kuldeep. He hasn’t played a lot of red-ball cricket since making his debut here in 2017. Given the context, for him to come into this series and perform the way he has, it’s been absolutely superb. And he’s literally forced us (to play him) by the sheer quality of his bowling. He showed us the X-factor that he can bring to the team.”

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