By Gautam Bhattacharyya, Sports Editor
The buck should definitely stop with the Indian team management (read: Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri) for the series defeat in England, no matter how many times they came close to bucking the trend during four of the five Tests with the exception of the one at Lord’s. We are all aware of the cliche that a captain is as good as his team or a coach can’t get down to the ground and perform himself, but they should be held accountable for lack of adequate preparations once again.
The final scoreline of the series may not reflect how close the competition was — but history will say that the batsmen failed to thrive in swing-friendly conditions in critical sessions or an otherwise impressive bunch of bowlers failed to close out the innings after making the vital breakthroughs. The question that begs to be asked is: did the tour management enough to pre-empt such situations and keep their best foot forward?
While Kohli’s run with the bat showed the maturity in his craft since the dismal summer of 2014, both the captain and head coach were reluctant to move beyond their comfort zone and pick the brains of proven experts on countering the English conditions. To my mind, Rahul Dravid — the India A and Under-19 coach — would not have refused an offer to work with the Test specialists like Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul or Cheteshwar Pujara on the virtues of patience and the art of leaving the ball. However, with Dravid’s name being first suggested by the Cricket Advisory Committee (comprising of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman), it’s not difficult to presume that Shastri would not be open to the idea given his less-than-cordial relationship with Ganguly.
At a time when the likes of a Mahela Jayawardene can be drafted by England to tackle Pakistan spinners in UAE, couldn’t the cash-rich Indian cricket board have roped the services of a Graham Gooch on a short-term basis? It’s high time that the qualification of someone like Sanjay Bangar as the batting coach needs to be questioned.
A perception has also gained ground is that nobody, and that includes a plain-speaking man like Shastri, is keen to rock the boat with Kohli to fall from his grace. It’s time the captain needs to understand that the bottom line is results and not just, to quote him, “being competitive”.
By A.K.S. Satish, Senior Pages Editor
Once again, India have lost an away series and there will be calls for heads to roll. However, in my opinion, India have not done really badly in this Test series and probably with a bit of luck, could have even gone on to win the series.
An away Test series win, let’s face it, is such a rarity that even the best are struggling to produce the results. Gone are the days when West Indies and Australia were invincibles across the globe. In today’s technology-aided game, winning the home series is in itself an achievement and there is hardly anything to choose from the teams.
The Indian team management, or Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri & Co, cannot be completely faulted. They picked the best possible players on the tour who have the experience and the performance to stake the claim. But if these professionals couldn’t adjust to the conditions and adapt their game better, how can one blame the team management?
There will always be if and buts in a team selection but they took a few forward thinking measures like picking Rishabh Pant for his impressive show for India A in England. Same with Hanuma Vihari, who made his debut in the fifth and final Test, and Prithvi Shaw.
Except one bad Test at Lord’s, it has been a close series and looking at the stats of both the teams, the top-order of both has struggled to get runs. On that count, India are better off as Kohli has been a mainstay while England owe their success to the lower-order batsmen.
On many occasions, especially in the first, fourth and fifth Test, the lower order contribution from Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and even Adil Rashid has outweighed the England top-order. Only in the last innings of the fifth Test did the main home batsmen score big runs.
It was a heartening performance on the whole and with the pace battery looking fully charged up, one can look forward to some entertaining contests Down Under.