Kolkata: It’s turning to be England captain Joe Root’s series - if the first three Tests against India are any indication. Three timely centuries - which spelt of the virtues of class and patience - in as many Tests against a potent Indian pace attack is no joke and it should be seen as his personal battle in an attempt to settle the debate of best Test batsman of these times.
Till even a few years back, Root’s name came up almost as an afterthought in such a discussion - with Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson being almost automatic choices in that pecking order. The order has surely gone topsy-turvy in recent times, if one goes by the ICC Test batsmen’s rankings, with Root second only to Williamson while the Indian skipper has been playing catch-up at fifth position.
The way three Tests have panned out at Trent Bridge, Lord’s and Headingley, it has to be admitted that the hosts have won the battle of sessions on more occasions. The notable exceptions were the the final day at the Lord’s and the second and third sessions of the third Test on Friday when a resurgent Cheteshwar Pujara held firm with a determined Rohit Sharma and then his skipper.
The much hyped series is now poised at 1-1, with everything to play for at The Oval and Manchester, but it has to be admitted that India has perhaps lost the psychological advantage of that sensational Lord’s win. This is a depleted England line-up with no Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes or Mark Wood and doubts about their batting line-up over the openers as well as the No.3 batting position, but have certainly held their own against a team which finished runners-up in the World Test Championship only two months back.
As far as India is concerned, it’s not quite the time for knee-jerk reactions as you cannot be all out for 78 on the first day of a Test match and hope to save the match - let alone win it. Their middle order showed plenty of character on Friday but once Pujara shouldered arms to a late inswing from Ollie Robinson on Saturday, it was a question of whether they would be able to make England bat again. Robinson, named Player of the Match largely on the merit of his five for 65 in India’s second innings, can see the recognition as a redemption after a recent controversy over his racist tweets.
The positives, if there can be any after an innings defeat, had been Pujara finding his bearings after a long gap and Kohli looking more determined not to fish at deliveries outside the off stump.
Looking ahead, there would now be renewed calls to finally make way for someone like Suryakumar Yadav in place of Ajinkya Rahane, the Test vice-captain, and Ravi Ashwin in place for a fourth seamer.
The fourth Test starts at The Oval on Thursday (September 2), and the Indian tour management need to go back to the drawing board again...