Editorial

Home and away: on the Indian Test team's recent record

 

The Indian cricket team under Virat Kohli has ambitions of being the best travelling side in the world, but it clearly has some way to go before this is realised. The defeat in the fourth Test against England in Southampton condemned India to a 1-3 series loss, the latest in a long line of disappointments away from home. Of its last nine Test series outside Asia, India has won only one — against a less-than-impressive West Indies. India arrived in England this summer as the world’s No.1 Test team, and believed it had the mettle to upstage the hosts. The batting, however, let the side down, struggling against swing and seam, with an experienced English attack ruthlessly exploiting the batsmen’s deficiencies. India started poorly, losing the first two Tests, and it was not until the third one in Nottingham that the batting unit collectively showed the application required to survive in tough conditions. Preparation, as several former batting greats have observed, is the key. Leading into the series, India played only one tour game, a three-day match against Essex, although a few players had turned out for India-A in a first-class fixture in Worcester earlier. It was clearly not adequate. Modern-day schedules do not give international teams adequate time for preparation; this is the principal reason that travelling sides tend to start on the back-foot, and often perform poorly.

 

Kohli, though, was an exception. Four years ago, he was in dreadful form on India’s tour of England, managing only 134 runs from 10 innings. This time around, he has been outstanding, having accumulated 544 runs in four Test matches. Kohli has shown patience and a resolve to go with his skill, proving beyond doubt that currently he is the finest batsman in the world. India is, however, over-reliant on him. His captaincy, too, can improve. Last week was the first time Kohli had fielded the same eleven in successive Tests — although injuries and pitches have played a part in such decisions, the constant tinkering cannot be of any help. In South Africa earlier this year, he made selection decisions that can best be described as curious, dropping the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. On this tour, he omitted Cheteshwar Pujara at Edgbaston in Birmingham; it is not ideal for players to feel that their place is perennially under threat. A captain can only be as good as his team, and Kohli’s legacy as a leader will be judged by the squad’s performance on tough tours. There are encouraging signs for the future, not least India’s superb pace attack. But it is not over yet, and with the fifth and final Test commencing at the Oval in London on Friday, India gets a last shot at salvaging its pride.

 


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 4:05:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/home-and-away/article24875059.ece

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