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Top order batsmen failure is the reason for series loss in England


India’s frustrating inability to defeat a middling England team despite seemingly having all the ingredients is really a cause for concern despite a healthy improvement in Virat Kohli’s team faring better than previous Indian sides. The expectations were high that this Indian team is strong and aggressive enough to counter alien conditions and are not just a backyard bully. Having said that on a closer analysis the team fared really well – the pace bowling was far better than their English counterpart, catching and fielding was far superior than England – but not enough strength in the top and bottom order to win crucial moments of the game.

India’s batting lineup, a continual source of disappointment abroad, was overly reliant on Kohli and disturbingly lacked confidence when the superstar was not in the middle. India’s implosion in their run chase after Kohli was dismissed seemed all too inevitable. They need more street fighters, players like Cheteshwar Pujara who scored a superb first innings hundred.

Former Captain, Azharuddin, questioned the role of India's coaching staff after the Indian team failed to chase down the target of 245, required to win the Southampton Test. He also saidthat regular failures of top order batsmen put an extra burden on the middle order. "We lost the series because of poor batting and our batsmen were committing the same mistakes throughout. What is our coaching staff doing?" Azharuddin said. "Technically, our batsmen were found wanting. We didn’t play the moving ball well. We can’t depend only on Virat Kohli. Openers like Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul too didn't get runs. The middle-order was left with too much to do. We should have taken at least a 100-run lead after Cheteshwar Pujara's hundred (in the fourth Test)," said Azharuddin.

India stalwart went step further and questioned Kohli’s captaincy credentials. "Everybody would be disappointed looking at the result because when Virat Kohli took over as captain, it seemed like the team would head into a new direction under him. The team looked hungry to win and seemed more hopeful of doing well under Kohli. Everyone thought that he will bring in a lot more josh, a lot more energy into the team. So quite naturally, there will be questions asked about his captaincy” Gavaskar asked.

But the Captain Virat Kohli felt India’s failure to claim a big lead in thefirst innings was a key factor in the 60-run loss to England in the fourth Test. “In the first innings we were in a good position, me and Puji (Pujara) had a good partnership - we got off to a decent start. We couldn’t capitalise on that,” he said. “Getting a lead of 27 with Pujara batting through showed all of us that we could have gotten a bigger lead. After I got out, I myself felt that had I batted for longer that day the lead could have been bigger. “Apart from that we I don’t think we did much wrong in this game throughout. England played better cricket than us and deserved to win the Test match.”

All the good things that India did collectively to win the Trent Bridge Test evaporated in the warm and balmy air in Southampton. Virat Kohli tried to put a positive spin in the end, but India had lost the series 3-1. The loss of the series brought several things to the front – Is it the failure of Dhawan and Rahul the reason? Is it the lower order faring worse than England the reason? Is it Ashwin’s bowling in the 4th Test the reason? Is it Kohli’s team selection the reason? Is it the coaching staff behind the
reason?

Clearly it is not Ashwin’s bowling that India lost the Southampton Test or the series. Yes, Ashwin was not his best, he was carrying an injury, he should have been better than Moeen Ali! But it is the batsmen who let the team down – they not only lost early wickets to the seamers they made Moeen Ali looked unplayable while England batsmen handled Ashwin better.

Lower order below par performance added to the woes of the Indian team. England's four batsmen in 6, 7 and 8 positions added close to 300 runs in the match with Curran in particular impressing on his recall to the team by scoring 78 and 46. India's Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin managed 48 runs from the same three spots, further highlighting the batting woes of the tourists in the series.

Despite the series loss, Kohli felt India made England earn the victory and that is something he would tell his players to take forward in the final Test. Asked if 3-1 was a fair reflection for the series, Kohli felt, it would be crude to measure the efforts put in by his team in terms of a "scorecard". "You understand that cricket is not always defined by the scorecard - that's just a thing to look at. You might be 3-0 up in a five match series, and the opposition manage to win the last two and say it's a close series, but you know it's actually not close. But when you're going see-saw in every game apart from Lord's, I would not count that, and then you understand that it was a competitive and hard fought series victory for England. We definitely pushed England to earn a victory and they played better cricket than us for longer periods. That's why they won the match."

Gavaskar summed it up nicely. "If only the other batsmen could have played like him. If any other batsman could have scored over 400-500 runs then India wouldn't have lost Test series in South Africa and in England. This is like a learning curve for Kohli at the moment. Fans are bound to be disappointed as the expectations were quite high with this team. Looking at how they performed before this at home, in West Indies and in Sri Lanka, everybody was hoping to see historybeing made on foreign soil." May be that was not to be in England but the next big series – 4 Tests down under will present one more opportunity to this Indian team to create history by becoming the first Indian team ever to win a series in Australia.


Sports News By

Srinivasan


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