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  • Devang Arya

England vs India Series Review - India

One overriding theme from India’s series is quite evident. As much as the lower order of England helped them to win the series, India’s off field management and handling of affairs was a big reason as to why they lost the series. It was also one of the main reasons why India lost the South Africa series. I’ve got nothing against Rohit Sharma, but the simple fact is that had Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar played all 3 tests against South Africa, they would’ve won the series. Apart from South Africa, the place where Bhuvneshwar Kumar was going to have the most success was clearly England. He had been injured since the IPL, and the selectors and coaches should have done everything in their power to make sure he was fit for the test series, and this means not playing him in the ODIs until you are 100% sure he was fit. They played him, and he wasn’t 100% fit, and he was out for the test series. You could argue that India’s fast bowlers were fantastic through the series, but the lower order runs that Bhuvneshwar gives you could have made all the difference in at least 2 of the test matches (Edgbaston and the Oval).

KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane. These were India’s best 5 batsmen before the series, and these 5 should have been the ones that they played through the series. The decision to pick Dhawan despite getting a pair in the warm up game was completely baffling and even though he did okay, he was immediately dropped for Lords. If you had such little confidence in him, then why pick him at Edgbaston?

Wridhhiman Saha was a huge miss as well, but that is of no fault of the team management. To add to the Bhuvi injury issue, we also got the Ashwin injury issue mid series. It is completely unbelievable that nobody realised that Ashwin was injured for the whole of the 4th test; it is the only possible explanation for such a poor performance throughout the test when Moeen was taking wickets for fun at the other end. Ashwin had been outstanding up until that point, and when you have the 2nd best spinner in the world (according to the rankings) on the bench. When Jadeja did come in, he did very well…. There were other micro problems such as not understanding in the first 2 tests that Ishant is indeed a better batsman than Shami, and being completely lost as to the order of 6-7-8 between Pandya-DK/Pant-Ashwin/Jadeja. These little things eventually add up and you can get away with it at home, but away from home you will be punished, as India were.

The final thing that India got badly wrong was the team combination. On pitches that are very batsman friendly for at least 3 days, like in India or Australia, you can afford to go for someone like Pandya, but on pitches that have some life in them, like in England and South Africa, where the bowlers are always in the game, picking Pandya, who is not in your top 7 batsmen in the country or in your top 5 bowlers, is a massive risk. Granted, Pandya got a 5 for in India’s only win in the series, but a proper batsman would’ve been more suited to the side at 6/7 as Pandya really didn’t bowl that many overs because England didn’t simply last that long. However, the pitches in Australia mean you could be in the field for upwards of 120 overs, so a 5th bowler is almost a necessity.

Murali Vijay : 2/10 - Dropped after 2 tests, Vijay’s return to England in India colours was not good. He got a pair at Lords (in admittedly very difficult conditions) and got a start in the first innings at Edgbaston but could not capitalise. It has been a very disappointing couple of tours for Vijay, after he was one of India’s most dependable batsmen in the last overseas cycle.

Shikhar Dhawan : 4/10 - In every test apart from the Oval, Dhawan got a start but mostly, got out flashing at the ball outside the off stump, which was immensely frustrating to all involved. He has a general poor record in SENA countries, and this series did not improve his stocks.

KL Rahul : 6/10 - International cricket is a hard place when you’re struggling for confidence or have a technical issue you can’t sort out because the games come so quickly, and either one of these could apply to KL Rahul. With the bat, he had a series similar to Cook, very average for 4 tests and at the Oval, spectacular. His 149 was a wonderful innings where he played his natural game and put the pressure back on the bowlers, and for the first time in the series he looked like the pressure was not on him. The reason he gets a higher rating than Cook is because of his incredible series in the slips, and in the series of drops I can only remember him dropping one, and he caught literally everything else.

Virat Kohli : 10/10 - Wow. There aren’t many words to describe Kohli’s series. A blip in the final innings is nothing compared to how he shut his critics down ruthlessly in the 9 that came before it. He averaged 59.30 with 2 hundreds and a 97, and complete masterclasses at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston showed why he truly is the best player in the world.

Ajinkya Rahane : 4/10 - Rahane played a big part in the Trent Bridge win, but his series contribution pretty much ends there. A poor, poor series for India’s vice captain, after the lofty expectations on him. An average of 25.70 in 10 innings doesn’t speak much for one of India’s best batsmen and, as the saying goes, India only win overseas tests when Rahane gets runs. Rahane has to get runs in Australia, otherwise India’s batting may ell struggle again.

Dinesh Karthik : 2/10 - Dinesh Karthik had a poor 2 tests. He got out leaving the ball or bowled or caught in the slips, and simply could not get himself in in any of his 4 innings apart from 1. He played well in the 2nd innings at Edgbaston, but was dismissed early on Day 5, disappointed not to take India over the line.

Hardik Pandya : 5/10 - To be fair to Pandya, it is not really his fault that he was picked for 4 tests. Flashes of a fantastic test all rounder were present throughout the series, with the crowning moment the 5 wickets at Trent Bridge followed by a quick 50 in the 2nd innings, but with the bowler friendly nature of the series, India really should’ve played with 6 batsmen and a keeper. He still isn’t quite as consistent as someone like Ben Stokes, and is perhaps the one Indian player now who would grossly benefit from a county spell in the future for the next time India are on English shores.

Ravi Ashwin : 6/10 - An immensely frustrating series for Ravi Ashwin. He was truly fantastic for the first test, picking up 7 wickets, and while Lords was a disaster for everyone in the Indian camp, he got injured midway through the Trent Bridge test having bowled very economically. It had seemed that Ashwin had really improved his overseas bowling. And then we came to Southampton…. Ashwin clearly hadn’t come back properly from injury and was ruthlessly outshone by Moeen. Why risk Ashwin when Jadeja is sitting on the bench? This test undermined Ashwin’s series, and had Jadeja played instead India could’ve won the 4th test and set up a decider for the Oval.

Mohammed Shami : 7/10 - In each innings, Shami was either hit or miss. He took a while to warm up to the series, in Edgbaston and Trent Bridge he was average, giving away too many runs early on in the innings, but he was absolutely outstanding in the final 2 tests, immensely unlucky not to pick up more wickets than he did. Credit to his workload as well, as he played all 5 tests and bowled more overs than any other Indian bowler.

Ishant Sharma : 9/10 - India’s highest wicket taker in the series, Ishant Sharma was truly excellent throughout, especially troubling England’s left handers at the top of the order. He definitely acted like the leader of India’s attack, as he bowled long spells and dried up the runs for an aggressive English batting line up for long periods of time, allowing for bowlers like Shami and Bumrah to bowl quickly and aggressively.

Umesh Yadav : 6/10 - Umesh played one test, and although he sprayed the ball a little in the first innings, he ended up bowling fairly economically throughout the game, taking 3 wickets in the match. He was dropped for the 2nd test (probably should’ve played instead of Kuldeep at Lords).

Cheteshwar Pujara : 7/10 - After missing out on the first test, he came in incredibly tricky conditions at Lords. Throughout the series, Pujara fought really hard at number 3 and played out a lot of balls. It is his job to do so, although it would’ve been nice to see him score even more runs than he did (even though he finished 3rd highest scorer for India). His innings was at the Rose Bowl of 132* was perhaps the finest innings of his career to date, masterfully denying England’s attack, beating his 92 in Bangalore and his double hundred in Ranchi in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2017.

Kuldeep Yadav : 1/10 - Kuldeep played one test, and India could not have chosen a worse test in the series for him to make his overseas debut. It rained for most of the first day, yet the management still chose to go in with 2 spinners. Kuldeep did not have a good test, conceding 44 in 9 overs with 0 wickets, and getting 2 ducks with the bat.

Jasprit Bumrah : 8/10 - What a difference Jasprit Bumrah made to this Indian side. He came in at Trent Bridge and for the last 3 tests was explosive, balancing the pace attack of Ishant and Shami perfectly. His surprising in swinger to Jennings was still one of the best deliveries of the series, due to the sheer unexpectedness of the ball. Jasprit Bumrah has 2 5 wicket halls in just 6 tests, one in South Africa and one in England. His 5-for at Trent Bridge took out Root and broke the Stokes-Buttler partnership, and like a true world class bowler, sniffed his opportunity and took of Bairstow and Woakes soon after to end England’s hopes for a draw. In my opinion there is real reason to believe that Bumrah is now one of the world’s best all format pace bowlers of his generation in league with Rabada and Cummins.

Rishabh Pant : 7/10 - A very intriguing introduction in test cricket for Rishabh Pant. He hit his first ball in test cricket for 6 (imagine the reaction had he been caught at mid on), and in the next test, got a 29 ball duck. At the Oval, he showed what he can do to attacks on flatter pitches, getting a remarkable 114, with almost 75% of his runs coming in boundaries. This was an incredible innings and showed his potential with the bat across formats. His keeping, however, can only be described as a massive learning curve for him. With the ball swerving all over the place and Shami sometimes bowling off the pitch, keeping down the byes proved to be his biggest challenge. Pant’s keeping technique can only improve, Saha is a far better keeper, Pant is a far better and game changing batsman. Massive dilemma ahead for the selectors whenever both Saha and Pant are fit.

Hanuma Vihari : 6/10 - Watching Indian batsman debut in SENA countries is always very interesting, Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul to name 2 in recent times. Vihari looked nervous on the first evening of his test career, risking many pull shots against then short ball. He started to look more assured, and it is not difficult to see why he averages 59 in first class cricket, as he scored a fighting 56. Vihari did get himself in a big muddle in the 2nd innings, but he does look a calm presence at the crease when he is settled, and could develop into a very good batsman at test level with more opportunities.

Ravindra Jadeja : 8/10 - Jadeja had a very good Oval Test, and Jadeja and Ashwin have both showed that they are much better players than they last toured England . 86* and 4 wickets in the first 2 innings showed that he probably should’ve played in Southampton more than anything else, and he was impressive, holding up an end while the pacers could attack at the other end. The 2nd innings fell apart slightly for both teams, Jadeja came in a tricky situation with the bat with India taking the ridiculous notion at Tea that they could actually win, and with Cook and Root stroking the ball like they were, it was a good job on Jadeja’s part that he kept his economy under 4.

Average (excluding Jadeja, Vihari, Umesh and Kuldeep who all played one test) : 5.92 (13)

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