India vs England: Time for Virat Kohli's squad to repay the faith

Visitors' batting spine showed some encouraging signs in the loss at Leeds but India need more than that to put up a significant total on the board

Published: 01st September 2021 10:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st September 2021 10:07 PM   |  A+A-

India's Mdohammed Siraj, left celebrates with India's Virat Kohli, right after taking the wicket of England's Jos Buttler. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

COLOMBO (2015). Bengaluru (2017). Johannesburg (2018). Nottingham (2018). Melbourne (2018). Melbourne (2020). Chennai (2021). Not that they need inspiration with the Pataudi Trophy tied 1-1 with two Tests to play, but if the visitors need it, they only need to look within. It is not just a team filled with match-winners, but also characters who have triumphed past adversities when odds weren't in their favour.

They have been in this space before where doubts have been raised, with questions over specific individuals. However, this team has silenced the doubters in a manner that past teams have seldom done.  

If one of the highpoints of the Indian team of the 2000s under Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni was the ability to take series leads overseas, Virat Kohli's team has almost made a living out of their ability to bounce back from the dead.

The current batting line-up may not be as star-studded as the Fab Five or have loads of runs or good averages to show, but there is something about the resilience they show when their backs are against the wall. Those headline-grabbing wins mentioned above have been preceded by collapses in Galle, Pune, Centurion, Lord's and Adelaide and big defeats in Perth and Chennai.

"We've done it in the past. We've been bowled out for 36 and bounced back from that," India's bowling coach Bharat Arun said on Wednesday. "We can take the confidence of what we've done in the past and I am sure you'll see a much more spirited performance in the Test matches.

As India enter The Oval in search of their second win of the series, the onus remains on the batting unit to put up a total which the bowlers can defend. In the four Tests India have played this summer in England, the middle-order has remained susceptible to deliveries outside off. The indecisiveness showed by Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane at No 3, 4, and 5 can happen to visiting batsmen in England, where the conditions over the past five years happen to be amongst the most difficult for batsmen across the world.

Amid the crushing defeat in Leeds, there were a few positives to take home for India and it happened to be the performances of Pujara and Kohli in the second innings. While the two may still be far away from being considered 'batsmen who have returned to form', there were encouraging signs which were greeted by head coach Ravi Shastri. Someone who rarely shows his emotions in the dressing room, he twice walked out of the coach's cabin at Headingley with a grin on his face to applaud as Pujara, fought his way back to score 91. More than the runs, the time the No 3 spent in the middle will have reassured the team management. That he was beginning to get behind the line of the ball will have been noticed.

Amidst this, it is impossible to overlook the faith the team management has retained in their under-fire batting line-up. It is a stark contrast to what went on during the 2018 tour, where by the middle of it, few players felt they were just one bad performance away from being benched. Although plenty of noise has been made about Pujara and his strike-rate on this tour, the team management values his presence. It is why they were more than happy to wait for the No 3 to be back spending time in the middle. The visitors believe that when that happens, the rest will automatically fall in place as it would give their No 4 and 5 and 6 more breathing space.

It is over to the batting unit to repay the faith and do what they like doing: rise from the ashes.


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