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All is not lost: Team India can still make a comeback in the remaining tests

Delhi: On Monday, a daily from Mumbai carried an interesting picture on its front page. It captured the pensive and dour faces of Sanjay Bangar, Ravi Shastri and skipper Virat Kohli standing on the Lord’s balcony watching the pathetic capitulation of India’s batsmen in the second innings. The photograph conveyed the agonizing feeling of helplessness that had settled over these three people like a blanket of fog. Coach Shastri, we presume, may have told Kohli ad nauseam that defeat doesn’t demean or diminish any captain especially on overseas tour; that he has better not sweat the pinpricks in life; after all one should move on despite setbacks. It is difficult to presume what was on the minds of Shastri and Kohli on that bleak Sunday as Indian batsmen were reduced to shorn Samsons much to the delight of their tormentors.  India eventually went on to lose the second test by an innings and 159 runs.

The shocking but not totally unexpected defeat of India in the second test, has, as usual, raised an avalanche of questions among cricket lovers. They can’t figure out why a bowler as inexperienced as Kuldeep Yadav, was chosen over the much-experienced and intelligent bowler like Jadeja. The likes of Bairstow and Chris Woakes had the last laugh as they made mincemeat of this hapless bowler who always gave that quizzical look to his teammate. Why there were not more slips when Ishant and Shami’s fiery spells had the English batsmen in a spot of bother? If India snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the first test, in the second test, they surrendered abjectly without even putting up a semblance of a fight. England have taken a 2-0 lead in the five test series and, if we go by past experiences, things are not looking all that rosy for India in the remaining tests.

Individual brilliance won’t work

Despite a gritty knock of 149 by Kohli in the first test, he couldn’t save the test. Sadly enough, he didn’t have the support of his other teammates who could play like Dravid, Ganguly or Tendulkar. Kohli didn’t have somebody of the caliber of Sehwag who could play swing and spin with great panache. Kohli, by all means, is a great batsman whose batting remains an exercise in brilliant stroke play that exemplifies determination and mental resilience. But one-man show in cricket is completely self-defeating which even the captain of the Indian team knows very well.

Bowling must come good

India has no dearth of good bowlers. Shami and Ishant bowled with sincerity and effort and it is really disheartening that in the second tests they failed to make a dent in the English batting. Kohli definitely needs to have a plan of action in place for the third test. If need be, he should replace Kuldeep with Jadeja because the latter is an all-rounder who can turn the game around any moment. The captain must repose his trust in Jadeja because he is one player who time and again has made a promising comeback after being in the wilderness.

Need a solid opening partnership

In the last two test matches, India’s opening partnership has simply gone kaput. In the first test, Shikhar Dhawan and Murli Vijay failed to stitch together even a decent opening partnership. In the second test, Murli Vijay and Rahul again floundered and laid a week foundation for the team. This should not happen again. Murli Vijay and Rahul should put their failures behind and focus on their games. So should other players like Pujara, Murli Karthik and Pandya. All these players have the potential to make a difference and turn the tables on the opponents.

As the third test begins on August 18, Kohli and his men will be playing the most crucial test of their tour because a victory will be a big psychological boost for the visitors besides taking the edge off the English team’s complacency. A defeat would confirm the commonly-held belief that the Indian team do well at home and falters overseas.

Aditya Mukherjee

The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi

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