The Indian cricket Test team suffered a humiliating defeat in Tuesday’s rescheduled fifth Test versus England at Edgbaston. Despite setting a target of 378 runs, a poor bowling performance in the second innings saw England chase down the score rapidly. This was England’s highest chase in Test cricket. India scored 416 in the first innings after being 98/5 at one stage. They bowled well to dismiss England for 284. Gaining a crucial lead thereafter, India paid the price for some poor shot-making to fold for 245. England won the match with seven wickets to spare. Joe Root (142*) and Jonny Bairstow (114*) struck fabulous hundreds.
The five-match series ended in a 2-2 draw, and India now find itself in a position of bother as far as the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 final is concerned. India must win their remaining six Test matches against Bangladesh away and Australia at home to qualify. Time and time again, we have seen India struggling away from home despite recent successes. They had lost against South Africa earlier and were blanked by New Zealand away in the previous WTC, besides being outplayed in the 2019-21 final.
Rahul Dravid needs answers for his team’s poor show, and on the same note, we present the 7 weak links for Team India in Tests.
Chopping and changing upfront
Rohit Sharma is the top Test opener, but when you look at his partner, one is puzzled to know who is the best bet. You had Mayank Agarwal, but he is consistently in and out of the side. With Rahul injured, Gill is in the mix, but he lacks that character. So when you had Rahul and Rohit missing the fifth Test, why go with Pujara rather than Mayank, who warmed the bench. Identification is key alongside backing, and sadly, India keep trying too hard with their options, which has seen the side suffer.
Virat Kohli has become a luxury
With his last century coming across formats in November 2019, Virat Kohli has become a pale shadow of himself. He has failed to live up to expectations for a long period now. Since his 2019 century versus Bangladesh, he has played 32 innings in Tests, managing just five fifties. Against England in the five-match series, his scores read 0, 42, 20, 7, 55, 50, 44, 11, and 20. He managed just 249 runs. His counterpart Root scored in excess of 700 runs in the series. With Kohli going dry, India’s middle-order has suffered. There is too much pressure on Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja. Kohli, on many occasions, is unsure of his shot-making. He tries to play many shots, and that’s a worry. He lacks confidence, and if India are to do well, they need him to find his form back.
Shubman Gill needs to convert his promise
With Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul missing the fifth Test, Shubman Gill was handed a chance. He failed in both innings, falling to ordinary balls. This was simply because of poor shot-making, playing away from the body without any intent. He started well in the first innings but threw his wicket away. Gill needs to play more FC cricket, and County, in particular, will help him. Gill has to freshen up his mind and play sensitive cricket to be the next opener in this side for a long time. With four fifties across 21 innings, Gill has to better the numbers if India are to dominate away from home.
Is Vihari an answer for India?
Since his 111 and 53* against the West Indies back in 2019, Hanuma Vihari has shown promise, but the application and result are missing. Two fifties across 17 Test innings for this versatile cricketer are poor returns. In the fifth Test, he looked shy, managing 20 and 11. In the previous tour of Australia, he fared poorly as well. There is too much talk regarding the character of Vihari and hard work, but a batter need runs, and sadly the right-handed batter has shown little substance in a packed middle-order.
Shreyas and short ball menace will be a hindrance
KKR captain Shreyas may miss the cut in India’s T20 World Cup squad in Australia. The reason is his problems against short balls. And in Test cricket, too, especially in SENA nations, Iyer is now proving to be a weak link. Anderson and Matthew Potts got Iyer in the fifth Test at Edgbaston after bowling short balls. The KKR skipper’s application is worrisome against short balls, and he needs to address the woes to keep a place. In the IPL, too, he struggled against short balls. This needs proper coaching and practice, as Iyer’s struggles are hurting the cause.
Captaincy is a major factor
After Virat Kohli’s tenure as captain and with no Ajinkya Rahane in the side, India’s captaincy could hinder them going forward. Rohit missed the Test but is 35, and once he retires, the issue can plague India. Jasprit Bumrah lacked the bite as captain, and slow over-rate also cost India points at Edgbaston. And then you have Rishabh Pant as stand-in vice-captain, who too is undercooked. India need consistency in the ranks and players who can lead by example. So the management needs a proper vice-captain and shapes him well once Rohit departs.
India need Pandya as the fourth pacer
Shardul Thakur has been decent as a bowling all-rounder and fourth pacer for India, but you need your main asset, which is Pandya. Without the talented cricketer, India’s lower middle-order lacks bite. He is also a handy bowler and a superb fielder. If Pandya gets more game time and remains fit, India can turn this weak link into a proper all-rounder. Yes, Jadeja is there, but he hardly bowls many overs away from home. If Pandya is there, at home too, India can field two spinners and two pacers with Pandya as the fifth bowler. This will see India bat deep up till number nine.