Team India’s tour of England came to an abrupt end on Friday, following the cancelation of the Manchester Test owing to COVID-19 cases in the Indian camp. Whether the series will end 2-1 in India’s favor or 2-2 (in case it is concluded India forfeited the match) is not clear yet as a final decision is yet to be taken on how the ‘canceled’ match will be viewed.
The four completed Tests of the series were closely fought, with Team India claiming wins at Lord’s and The Oval and England registering a tremendous triumph at Headingley.
The series was set for a fitting finale at Old Trafford in Manchester when COVID-19 forced the cancelation of the Test. Team India and England could now play a Test match during India’s white-ball tour of England in July next year.
What we learned from Team India’s tour of England
With Team India’s tour of England coming to an end in unexpected fashion, we look back at some major takeaways for the visitors from the Test series.
#1 Virat Kohli will stick to his theory, no matter how unpopular!
One of the biggest talking points from the Team India camp during the series was non-inclusion of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in all four Tests. Critics and experts kept harping throughout the series about how Virat Kohli was getting it wrong, and that he would have to pay a heavy price for his misjudgment.
The cricket pundits, of course, had a point. We were talking about Team India’s No. 1 bowler in the Test format, who has 413 scalps from 79 Tests at an average of 24.56. With all due respect to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, most critics termed him Team India’s No. 2 spin bowler.
From Nottingham to Lord’s and Headingley to The Oval, Kohli did not budge and kept playing Jadeja even as the external pressure on him to bring back Ashwin kept growing. Whether the tactic was a success is debatable. Jadeja claimed six wickets in four Tests at an average of 45.33. With the bat, he contributed 160 runs, averaging 22.86.
The Team India all-rounder’s numbers in the series were far from flattering. However, the fact remains that the visitors won two of the four Tests with the combination that Kohli and the team management picked. And so, we have got to hand it to the Team India skipper for sticking to his guns and delivering the results.
#2 Team India can no longer paper over middle-order woes
That Team India won two of the four Tests was thanks to some outstanding batting from the opening pair of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma coupled with incredible efforts from the pacers. The cracks in the middle-order only got wider. Irrespective of the series gains, Team India must ignore the telling signs at their own peril.
After poor starts to the Test series, Kohli and Pujara did well in the second half to finish with decent numbers. The Team India skipper scored 218 at an average of 31.14 while Pujara ended up with 227 runs at an average of 32.43.
Both quality players should be disappointed with their overall numbers. However, Pujara did impress with his positive strokeplay in the second innings at Headingley and The Oval. He should look to build on the same going forward.
The biggest worry for Team India as of now would be the form of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. The Mumbai cricketer looked completely out of sorts and only managed 109 runs in the series at an average of 15.57. Of his total runs in the series, 61 came in the second innings at Lord’s.
In the second innings at The Oval, he looked totally lost during his eight-ball stay out in the middle. Rahane’s Test career may not be finished as of yet, but Team India need to start grooming his replacement in right earnest.
#3 Shardul Thakur can be groomed in all-rounder’s role
One of the major positives for Team India from the Test series in England was the performance of Shardul Thakur. He played in two of the four Tests but made a significant impact.
At Trent Bridge, he claimed two wickets in both innings, getting the ball to move in helpful conditions. His scalps were big ones too. Thakur cleaned up Joe Root in the first innings and Jos Buttler in the second.
After missing out at Lord’s and Headingley, he returned with a bang at The Oval. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that, but for his decisive contributions, Team India would have been on the back foot in the fourth Test.
It was Thakur’s pugnacious half-century that lifted the team in the first innings after a collapse. In the second essay as well, his fluent fifty put Team India on the path to victory.
With the ball, he broke the threatening opening stand in England’s second innings, coming up with a peach to Rory Burns. Thakur then dismissed Root again to signal that the end for England in the Test was near. Although it is too early for Team India to term Thakur a proper all-rounder yet, the 29-year-old definitely has all the attributes to become one.
Thakur has demonstrated a refreshing attitude in his short career. He has delivered in crunch situations and seems to be gifted with the knack of coming up with the goods under pressure. Instead of waiting for Hardik Pandya to start bowling regularly again, Team India must start grooming Thakur in the all-rounder’s role.