There isn’t a thing called failure in sports. Yes, you play to win and you end up losing a few, but if you have learnt from the losses, you won’t be called a failure. Either you win or you learn. India have lost two consecutive away series and due to the fact that they were capable of winning both, they would be extremely hurt. While there’s still one Test left, it won’t be a bad idea to objectively analyse the things that went wrong and also figure out a blueprint for the future. It might involve a different strategy or different personnel, or perhaps both.
There isn’t a thing called failure in sports.
Since both KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan haven’t scored a single half-century away from home in 2018, there’s merit in reconsidering their places in the XI. While Murali Vijay has already been sent back, there’s only Prithvi Shaw who can take one of the opening slots. The team management should do two things. 1. Tell Shaw that irrespective of what happens at the Oval, his place won’t be under threat for the Tests against West Indies at home. There’s no point in throwing a young kid to the pack of wolves without giving him the confidence that the team is firmly behind him. 2. They should choose one between Rahul and Dhawan based on who’s likely to be the opener in Australia. It’ll be a call based on instincts.
Why not six batsmen?
India under Virat Kohli took a strategic call to always play five bowling options (when four can do the job) in Tests, home and away alike. Interestingly, Kohli seldom fields six bowling options in limited-over cricket (when five is the minimum you need). But with the batting failing regularly, it won’t be a bad idea to adopt the white-ball strategy in Tests.
Since bowlers are regularly taking 20 wickets without either leaking runs or the assistance of the fifth bowler, it might be prudent to play an extra batsman. There’s Karun Nair waiting since the solitary Test against Afghanistan and Hanuma Vihari has also been added to the squad. Ideally, it should be Karun who gets the first opportunity, but if the skipper is keen to have someone who can roll his arm over, Vihari could be an option.
Ashwin or Jadeja?
Ravichandran Ashwin was effective at the start of the series. In fact, he almost had Alastair Cook’s number in his back pocket initially. But as the series progressed, his efficiency and fitness came under scrutiny. While it must be acknowledged that most pitches in this series were seamer-friendly, the game at Southampton might have sowed the seeds of doubt in Kohli’s mind.
Where Mooen Ali wreaked havoc, Ashwin wasn’t able to provide breakthroughs, and that turned out to be the difference between the sides in the end. Was he 100% fit for the game? Was he trying too much? Is there merit in looking at Ravindra Jadeja as an option? Incidentally, Jadeja was the first choice spinner in 2014 but this time, he didn’t get a game even when India played two spinners.
69 runs have been scored by India’s No 6 batsmen in this tour so far, at an average of 8.62. The stat makes a case for a specialist to bolster the batting, considering that the same position has yielded England 218 runs at an average of 31.14.
Finding pride and using it for tour down under
Playing for pride is the most redundant cliché in sport, for every time a player/team steps on to the field, they do so with a lot of pride. Unfortunately, it’s seldom discussed when the team is winning, as celebratory stories take centre stage. It’s only when the team loses that a thing called “pride” is thrown about. Like all past Indian teams, Kohli’s men should also take a lot of pride in what they’ve achieved and use the last Test to iron out issues that might prevent them from winning in Australia.