Virat Kolhi the batsman wins, captain loses

[add47]

Kohli hits 593 runs, improving on his 2014 disastrous tour, but his leadership left a lot to be desired.

“We created pressure. We were not able to hold that pressure for long enough with the bat and the ball as well…they [England] took advantage of those situations better than us”

New Delhi : Virat Kohli the batsman exorcised the ghosts of a horrendous 2014 series but his captaincy left a lot to be desired in the just-concluded series against England which again turned out to be a case of ‘’what it could have been’’. Kohli is, in fact, right when he says that barring Lord’s Test, they were not totally outplayed but England played better cricket during key moments during the 1-4 loss.

The series was testimony that batsman Kohli is heads and shoulders above his peers not just in India but in world cricket. The 593 runs, with two hundreds and three half-centuries, and his battle of attrition with old nemesis Jimmy Anderson will remain stuff of legends.

The difference was stark with the second-highest scorer being KL Rahul — 299 runs, 149 of those coming in a dead rubber when the pressure was off.

Where Kohli erred was not realising that his teammates were not as prepared for testing English conditions as he was. The Indian team reduced the duration of its lone practice game against County Champions Essex, a move that was criticised by none other than Sunil Gavaskar.

Kohli, however, differed stating that practice matches are worth it only if there is a good opposition to compete against and pitches of Test quality. ‘’Kohli should understand that if he doesn’t play for a month, he would still come out and score runs. But others need practice.

And in practice games you won’t get Test quality attacks. But the batsmen and bowlers in match situation add miles to their legs. It’s better than taking throwdowns,” Gavaskar had said on air for the series broadcasters.

The biggest problem that plagued India was dodgy team selection. Cheteshwar Pujara, who played a significant role in the Trent Bridge victory and scored a determined hundred was dropped from the first Test based on his poor county form. The Test specialist ended with 278 runs in the series.

Kohli’s over-dependence on Hardik Pandya’s all-round abilities in red ball cricket can also be questioned. A total of 164 runs including a half-century at a time when India was about to declare and a five-wicket haul in Trent Bridge were his only tangible contributions across four Tests.

The skipper’s persistence with Shikhar Dhawan, who has been a walking wicket outside the sub-continent, also created problems at the top of the order. Since the 2013 South Africa tour, Dhawan has shown both lack of technique and temperament in top Test playing nations. A total of 162 runs in eight innings probably will shut doors on his Test career for the time being as Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal are waiting in the wings for their opportunity.

[add48]

While Kohli was unlucky to lose all five tosses but his reading of the pitches and the team combinations left a lot to be desired. Not picking a second spinner in Edgbaston, where the pitch offered turn and bounce, was an error. It was compounded by the choice of a second spinner at the Lord’s where conditions aided seamers.

 While India inarguably have the best set of fast bowlers who used the conditions well, they were often guilty of not being able to get rid of the England lower order that showed depth and character.

It happened in second innings at Edgbaston, both innings at Southampton and also at the Oval. But it was nonetheless a decent performance from Ishant Sharma (18), Jasprit Bumrah (16) and Mohammed Shami (14) who gave it their all during the series. Ravichandran Ashwin lacked the bite when he had the most helpful conditions in Southampton, a pitch that could have been ideal for someone like Ravindra Jadeja.

The communication regarding where individuals stood also came under scanner after Karun Nair, an original selection was made to warm the benches even as Hanuma Vihari pipped him in playing eleven. Vihari scored a gutsy 56 but would have bagged a pair had Stuart Broad appealed for DRS for a plumb leg before decision in the first innings.

The silver lining will certainly be KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant’s hundreds in the fourth innings chase. But Pant’s glovework was par and Rahul finally got his mojo back after nine consecutive failures. Sanjay Manjrekar put it aptly on Twitter. ‘’While applauding KL Rahul and Pant, might be best in the interest of Indian cricket to not attach great importance to the last Test result, even if India had won. Assessment and lessons learnt should be on the basis of What happened till the series was alive,’’ Manjrekar tweeted.

To sum it up, India have lost six away Test matches this year at a time when the chief coach Ravi Shastri says that this is the best travelling team. Facts are sacrosanct and they tell a different story even though skipper Kohli was a touch irritated when a scribe asked him a question about the supposed tall claims made by the coach.

Come December, Kohli’s India will have a shot at Australia, a team that won’t have David Warner and Steve Smith, the two game changers. Kohli would be hoping for a merry Christmas Down Under.

Skipper and India top the rankings

India continued to be at the numero uno position but England grabbed the fourth spot in the ICC Test Team Rankings after completing a 4-1 series victory. The Virat-led side had started the series at 125 points but the series loss meant it is now on 115 points. India had lost the five-match series after conceding a 1-3 lead to hosts England after the fourth Test.

Kohli also finished as the number-one ranked batsman in the world in the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen. Kohli had started the series 27 points behind Australia’s Steve Smith and finished one point ahead of his closest rival. Kohli had first reached the top of the world after the Edgbaston Test and then reclaimed the top spot after the Trent Bridge Test.

India’s Lokesh Rahul and Rishabh Pant also made big gains with the opener advancing 16 places to 19th position. Pant also moved up 63 places to 111th position.