WHAT IF

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Sep 2018 11:07:27

NUMBERS often hide the true story. It has to be lived through memories and making a note of those for the future. The real story lies in moments -- seized and wasted. Flying back from the English shores, the Indian cricket team will have a bagful of those moments -- more wasted and a precious few seized. The 4-1 scoreline may suggest a hiding Virat Kohli’s men got from England but the true story lies in the tenacity and skill that India displayed in a Test series that was there for taking right from the first ball.

The kind of opposition India encountered in this five-Test series was far depleted than what they faced on the ignominious tours of 2011 and 2014. This was the best chance India had to win the English Summer. Never had the Indian team boasted of a pace attack that could take 20 wickets in every game. And the batting line-up it had was among the best in the present cricketing world. And yet, India came second best, losing key plots to an opponent that swears on their home pride. Tests are won by winning sessions and India lost crucial ones despite being overwhelming favourites.


As captain Kohli said, the kind of cricket India played might not show on the scorecard. The issue here is of the kind of cricket they needed to play to change the scorecard. On that count, India have a lot to learn and that too very quickly. There are gains, tremendous gains from every quarter of the series. What rankles is the collective outcome of those gains -- losses. That too from winning positions. The kind of cricket, Kohli said, India played in the series needed a constant accomplice -- Killer Punch. Unfortunately, India failed to deliver that punch.


Silver lining of this England tour will once again be the pace department. They were outstanding, to say the least, making England top-order look pedestrian in all the Tests. The biggest plus was the ability of every pacer in the side to put his hand up in absence of a senior partner. Even without Bhuvneshwar Kumar, considered India’s spearhead in the English conditions, the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma were more than handful for England’s batsmen. The only glitch was their failure to wipe out the tail-enders. In almost every Test, contribution from England’s tail-end batsmen made the biggest difference in the final result.


Post-mortem of this ‘what if’ tour would be incomplete without the mention of Ravichandran Ashwin’s contribution. He was excellent in one Test but carrying an injury and going for far too many variations did him in during the crucial fourth Test. That a premier off-spinner is overshadowed by Moeen Ali’s innocuous finger-spin was a bad certificate for any bowler. But this tour was always about the mistakes that India committed at wrong times. The glaring being the lack of faith in Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who was sent home without a long rope.


The biggest disappointment for India would be their batting. Unsure openers, creaky middle-order and on-and-off all-round show at Number 6 pushed the entire burden on Kohli, who sang his own redemption song with aplomb. Such dependence on one batsman never bodes well for a team that is dreaming to be the best in overseas conditions. All that was missing for the entire tour was discovered on the last day when Lokesh Rahul and Rishabh Pant showed a rare spine.


Despite the loss, this Indian team must be given a long run. The loss will hurt but the positives are far too precious. In Pant and Rahul, in Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja and even in the inconsistency of Hardik Pandya, India can still form a force that can change the story. These players deserve another chance and support from the fans for another shot in the coming years.