There is always the danger of costly errors being overshadowed by stupendous wins. India could be in danger of committing an oversight if they do not take stock upon their return back home after the terrific tours of Australia and New Zealand.
While Virat Kohli has already returned to the country as a result of having rest attributed to him through the tour of New Zealand, the rest of the Indian team returns home victorious from what would have undoubtedly been an enormously taxing tour, particularly of Australia. Although Australia were not as quick as England to step up to their game as on India’s previous overseas tour prior to the tour of Australia, India still had to put in the hard yards. That brought about some rather memorable and vindicating moments for players such as Cheteshwar Pujara and the Indian bowling quartet despite some injury niggles.
India’s win in Australia, the first time in seven decades, cannot overlook the fact that Australia were clearly playing well beneath the standards expected of them. And India had the opportunity to seal their success in England but let one too many opportunities slip through their fingers, literally and metaphorically speaking.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that prior to embarking on the tour down under, Virat Kohli was facing flak and not just because of his errant comments on social media. The duo of Kohli and Ravi Shastri, captain and coach respectively, had committed one too many blunders, whether it was in reading the pitch wrong or getting the team combination wrong and it had cost India dearly in terms of ceding to England a Test series that was, by most counts, India’s for the taking.
In the making of some rather bizarre moves such as at Lord’s when India’s team seemed to defy logic, the duo seemed to reflect thinking that was not on the par with that of the selectors, suggesting divisions right down the line where the squad did not match the think tank’s preferences and it led to the benching of some players such as Karun Nair who made their mark rather spectacularly. It kept the atmosphere terse and speculation rife, not an ideal situation on an overseas tour.
As the series improved down under, while India seemed to have been rewarded for backing some youngsters, the Nair issue was clearly one that would remain stuck in the throat, questioning whether the coach and captain were deciding teams based on who they favoured rather than who merited a place in the playing eleven.
As an afterthought, it would not be surprising that the team management may now claim they were running a horses-for-courses strategy when they may be asked to explain why Rohit Sharma was not considered for the home Test series against the West Indies but was selected without a single performance to justify his being picked for the tour down under.
Had India let the Australian series slip away, questions would have been asking about the manner in which the duo were running the show, at one point, even seemingly to openly differ with each other. Fortunately they quickly learnt the perils of leaving out a solid, weighty batsman like Cheteshwar Pujara, particularly when they play a mercurial player like Rohit Sharma in the Test format. While Pujara’s omission in England drew criticism, Pujara’s performance down under only underlined the learning curve that the skipper and coach had to go through.
Despite how well India played down under, even relieving some of the pressure and the idea that everything rested on how Kohli fared as a batsman, and the bowling fulcrum coming into their own with Jasprit Bumrah forming the core of the lineup, India cannot overlook the fact that they had their chances in South Africa which they failed to capitalize on and then let England regenerate themselves on the momentum they gained by making the right moves in terms of having their finger on the pulse as far as their fringe players were concerned. A hapless England was not only allowed to believe in themselves again but also, to celebrate vanquishing the team that Ravi Shastri once called ‘the best travelling team in the world.’
The victory down under may have undone some of the ignominy from the tour of England but it did not spare the bloopers as the coach was caught playing the game of whether a player was fighting fit or not with the captain talking otherwise when it came to India’s lead spinners in Test cricket, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. A review would be advised.